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by Erica Fischer on Feb 22, 2017

Bridging the Gap: Scaffolding for Novices World Language Class

scaffoldingLast week’s #langchat focused on methods to plan for and provide scaffolding for novices in world language classrooms. A variety of support cues, authentic resources, and confidence-building strategies have proven to give novice learners a helping hand in the journey to develop better speaking and writing skills.

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Cues for Students During the Speaking and Writing Process

There are many approaches to providing appropriate cues and support for students during the speaking and writing process. #Langchat participants shared several of their approaches used in the classroom.

  • @windycitysenora uses “High [frequency] words on the wall, lots of photos, and drawings.”
  • @rrrrrrrrrrrrosa mentioned that “sentence frames have been helpful. Here are the pieces. How do you put them together?” and @Robcat17 expanded on that, “I find paragraph frames can be helpful. [Paragraph frames] allow [students] to focus on ideas in sentences or smaller chunks.”
  • @welangley suggests “Question word posters. Tomorrow students have picture prompts for writing.”
  • @nicola_work said, “Brainstorm before the actual activity and [use] personalized vocabulary.”
  • @SECottrell suggests “#linguacafe!! Google Slides make it easy & fun!” She offered a link to an explanatory post and her Slides from this year’s classes.

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Confidence Building

Confidence is key for students when learning to speak and write in a new language. #Langchat participants shared a variety of creative ways in which they instill confidence in their students during the speaking and writing process. They suggested mini-presentations (@angardner06) as well as “[information] gap activities, speed dating conversations, meet and greet speaking” (@SraWilliams3). Teachers also emphasized how important it was to decrease student anxiety by building “off the context of what they already know” (ProfeCochran), giving them “low-stakes opportunities” (welangley), “start[ing] small” with “easy [activities] that build confidence]” (@MlleSulewski), and of course, praising and recognizing students’ attempts. A couple of other tips:

  • @windycitysenora said, “Build confidence by doing [interpersonal] tasks so [students] are aware of how much they understand first.”
  • @SraCash mentioned:

    Games!! [Students] feel confident when they’ve already produced the language ‘under pressure.’

Tips for Scaffolding Useful Vocabulary and Structures

The point of scaffolding is that learners need particular tools in logical order to be successful at a task. So, how do #langchat teachers “scaffold” useful vocabulary and structures before asking novices to accomplish a speaking or writing task? Teachers emphasized comprehensible input as the foundation that naturally prepares students for success in speaking and writing: “READING READING READING and more READING” (@welangley); “CI, CI, CI (Listening and reading, “scavenger hunts” for vocab, certain forms, meaning, search for meaning!” (@angardner06).

  • @SraWilliams3 said, “learning to circle vocabulary has been invaluable to me. I hear some really awesome things from the students here and there.”
  • @ VTracy7 said, “focusing on small tasks really helps. Describe: appearance, family, pets; likes, and friends…each as an individual task, then as whole.”
  • @nicola_work suggests, “If possible, watch a short video (for speaking) or read a short text (for writing) related to the topic/function.”

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The Role of Authentic Resources

#Langchat teachers agreed that authentic resources (texts and audio intended for native Spanish speakers) certainly have a place in the novice class. I can’t do without authentic resources in any lesson, unit, task, or assignment; they provide vocab, idioms, etc. I’d never think of” ( @SECottrell). Authentic resources provide a way to make learning a target language relatable. They provide a clear purpose for students (@windycitysenora) by showing them “that they don’t need to wait to interact with an authentic audience. Real, meaningful communication can start on day one” (@doriecp). @MarciHarrisAA added, “Authentic resources provide the reason for the communication – real-life context and cultural perspectives and practices.”

So how do #Langchat teachers integrate authentic resources in the world language classroom?

  • @SraCash said, “I use Youtubers for inspiration for video projects…show the students, ask them to make a response/their version.”
  • @ICanSpanish said:

    I love to give them audio-lingua recordings or infographics related to the lesson goal for them to reflect on/talk about.

  • @MmeFarab said, “This unit we read a TON of #authores infographics, so when I asked Ss to make their own, they felt confident to write one!”

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Encouraging spontaneous (not rehearsed) output

When it comes to speaking and writing, students will often memorize answers or what they will say in a speech, conversation, or presentation. However, there are numerous ways to support spontaneous output in the classroom. For example, @ VTracy7 has students “draw mystery tasks (as in select without peeking).” @MmeFarab said “I try to model [spontaneous output] by asking questions students don’t expect. There is no time to rehearse if your question is different!” @bjillmoore shared, “I encourage students to ask responses or comment on what others respond to. Encourage them to be nosey!”

Thank You

Thank you to our lead moderator, Wendy (@MmeFarab) and co-moderator, Megan (@MlleSulewski) for keeping the discussion on Encouraging Speaking and Writing in the World Language classroom on track last week. Thank you to all #Langchat participants who joined last week! Have a topic you’d like to chat about? Head over to the #langchat wiki and suggest a topic!
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Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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