Blog Archive

Thursday 17 March 2022

5 Minute Read - How can we scaffold resources to support SEND students?

In child development theory, psychologist Lev Vygotsky proposed that, in order for a learner to learn a concept, it had to be within what he called the learner’s “zone of proximal development”. He described this zone as the distance between the child’s actual development level through independent problem solving and their potential level with the addition of adult guidance (or in collaboration with peers who were more capable). Vygotsky called the support that learners receive in order to learn “scaffolding.”

The EEF published a report into supporting SEND students with regards to scaffolding, within it highlighting the importance of four key principles:
1. Explicit Instruction through worked examples and modelling.
2. Cognitive strategies such as the use of memorisation techniques or chunking.
3. Flexible grouping so that some students may benefit from 'pre-teaching'.
4. Use of technology such as visualisers.

When we teach, often without knowing it, we trial, modify and adapt a range of 'Instructional Scaffolding' techniques. These techniques refer to the strategies we use to allow students to bridge a cognitive gap and to aid them in the mastery of tasks. For example, our use of I do, We do, You do. At Mangotsfield School this is now a concrete modelling tool, embedded into our everyday teaching. However, is it enough for SEND students? As a direct result of our whole school focus on SEND students, I have been exploring some alternative strategies within Geography. Here are my top three techniques:

1. Graphic Glossaries - I recently taught the Year 9 Nurture group the complexities of Hans Rosling's  bubble chart for world health. As part of a unit of work on the global development gap, students needed to understand how we measure development (indicators such as life expectancy, GDP, literacy rates etc) and how these vary across the world. The first challenge was the complexities of language. This is where the 'graphic glossary' comes in. Whilst there are many wonderful ways to introduce new vocabulary to our students, the Frayer Model being a great example, with this specific class it was apparent that visualisation was the key. I took the approach of attaching icons and symbols to key phrases and ideas in order to stimulate their thoughts. 

Dual Coding is long recognised as a the idea of using different types of stimuli to help learners encode information into their brains more effectively, enabling it to be more easily retrieved later on. That is exactly what this graphic glossary is and has helped to stimulate both the oracy and written responses of Year 9 nurture. When presented with Hans Rosling's bubble chart for the first time, it was a proud moment to overhear AW state 'So those that live in poverty are more likely to have a shorter life expectancy as they are more likely to catch diseases from a lack of sanitation systems'!

2. 'Make it better' - I first utilised this strategy during online learning but it has been one that has transitioned seamlessly into my classroom, and most specifically lessons that focus on exam technique at KS4. The profile of my Year 11 GCSE Geography class (like many of us) is incredibly mixed. 31 students, 6 of which are SEND K or E as well as an almost equal balance between LAPs, MAPs and HAPs. Make it better is a useful strategy when scaffolding the completion of exam questions when you want to provide that extra bit of support to some students. Following the usually modelling to the class, it may prove useful to assist SEND students further with a 'Here's one I started earlier, if you want to make it better'. As shown below, it sparks the start for the students, providing them with a very basic structure that they can enhance and improve and reduces the number of times you will hear 'but I don't know how to start'!

Of course, this is not to be relied on by students all the time and as they become more confident you can reduce the level of scaffolding.

3. Review and Rewrite - The final strategy is similar in a way to Elaborate and Extend by Kate Jones (shared in the January T&L briefing on Knowledge Organisers), but with an SEND twist on it! What I like most about this technique is that it has an excellent level of challenge with the right amount of support. You provide students with a series of statements, but they are all incorrect. Students have to highlight the part they think is wrong and then rewrite the statement correctly underneath. As you can see within the completed example below, it may be a single word or an extended phrase within the statement that needs correcting. Whilst the re-writing of the statement may seem repetitive, this is the part that truly supports SEND students as it is a retrieval strategy that encourages them to deliberately recall their learning (whilst not increasing cognitive load). 

Like with all strategies, it is often a case of trial and error but the goal with those shared above is to focus the instruction at a level just above what the students are capable of on their own without support. If you wish to do some further reading, this is a useful post on the role of adaptive teaching within supporting SEND students: