ELT in Images – the scaffolding

Monday 13 July 2009

by Lindsay Clandfield

There are two things this image brings to mind immediately for me. One is a traditional metaphor I hear from newly qualified teachers when they are explaining an aspect of language. The other is a way more experienced teachers talk about an aspect of classroom management or communication management. Can you guess what, specifically, these two aspects are? Or does this image represent something else for you? Post a comment below.

Note: thanks to Andy Hockley for providing the idea for this one.

4 responses to ELT in Images – the scaffolding

  1. Great photo idea and a very ‘today’ word which I hear banded around all over the place, so very important to gather interpretations.

    Here’s (below) the etymology of the word (from etymonline.com). Personally, I like extremely old ‘beside/alongside’ meaning rather than the more modern ‘prop/support’ one in terms of teaching in general….. don’t you?

    c.1347 (implied in scaffolding), aphetic of an O.N.Fr. variant of O.Fr. eschafaut “scaffold,” probably altered (by influence of eschace “a prop, support”) from chaffaut, from V.L. *catafalicum (see catafalque).

    1641, from Fr. catafalque, from It. catafalco “scaffold,” from V.L. *catafalicum, from Gk. kata- “down,” used in M.L. with a sense of “beside, alongside” + fala “scaffolding.”

  2. Leahn says:

    Hi Lindsay

    I was reading the Macmillan online magazine the other day when I found this great quote from Scott Thornbury. I hope he doesn’t mind me stealing it and re-quoting him! Thanks Scott.

    Scaffolding is the temporary support that surrounds a building under construction. The term is used metaphorically to describe the temporary interactional support that is given to learners while their language system is ‘under construction’. It is this support from teachers, parents or ‘better others’ that enables them to perform a task at a level beyond their present competence.’ (Scott Thornbury)

    After reading this I started thinking about what scaffolding means in the situation I teach in. I work primarily in state primary schools in Spain with many talented teachers who are experts in scaffolding.

    I started to think about wall displays in particular and their importance with young learners and with visual learners. I often talk about the importance of supporting children by having new vocabulary and structures up on the walls. This is a great way to support them!

    One of the teachers I work with has a fantastic classroom with numbers, verbs and structures all displayed in clourful posters around the room.

    When I ask the childre a question you can see them looking for something they need. They know that they are being supported and actively search out a word or phrase they may need.

    So, at the moment one of the things that provides the scaffolding for my students learning is the visual support that I provide in the classroom on the walls in the form of posters and displays.

    Obviously this is just one of the many things I do but at the moment it is something that I am really interested in and that I think is really important.

    • Lindsay Clandfield says:

      What a great comment! Thanks Leahn for making this metaphor so much more real by drawing on classrooms you are familiar with. I’m sure Scott won’t mind the quote either!

  3. Jason West says:

    Makes me think of our course materials and how our teachers work with our students.
    After 8 years of digging this word ‘scaffolding’ has just entered my ELT world and it makes extremely good sense. Just goes to show.:-)

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