Scaffolded Literacy. Have you heard this term?

We use it a bit here at Ridgy Didge Resources but when we communicate with other members of our Ridgy Didge community about this scaffolded teaching approach to writing we get some blank faces.

So we thought we would clear a few things up by answering a few of our most frequently asked questions about Scaffolded Literacy.

Scaffolded Literacy Approach | Ridgy Didge Resources | Australia

What is Scaffolded Literacy?

Scaffolded Literacy is an integrated and sequential approach to teaching reading, spelling and writing. One of the primary aims of this approach to literacy teaching and learning is to make explicit to struggling or confused learners, the strategies effective readers and writers use.

Think of a scaffold and its purpose to support something, like a contractor painting a house. It is carefully constructed in several parts to help the contractor do his work. Scaffolded Literacy is based on a similar concept of support. It uses explicit instruction and modelling to carefully demonstrate to learner’s how to be a good reader and writer, enabling them to grow and develop the skills they need to achieve.

What are rich texts?

The approach encourages the use of rich texts as models for understanding how specific genres are written effectively. These rich texts are read and re-read for different purposes, including for enjoyment and also as a means for understanding sentence structure, grammar, punctuation and spelling guidelines.

The rich text chosen is usually a level or two above your learners normal reading and writing level. This encourages the learners towards higher level reading, writing and spelling and a deeper understanding and appreciation of rich language and writing standards.

Scaffolded Literacy Choosing a Text Ridgy Didge Resources | Australia
There is much to consider when choosing an appropriate text. See my suggestions below.

Why Scaffolded Literacy?

Scaffolded Literacy is a highly inclusive approach to teaching reading, writing and spelling. The approach enables a teacher to easily and seamlessly differentiate in their own classroom and meet their learners where they are at. All children can work from the same rich text regardless of their ability and a teacher can scaffold or support each individual student depending on where their skills are. And all with very little extra effort from the teacher.

Have you noticed changes in your students quality of writing?

I personally have seen significant changes in my student’s ability to read and write as I have applied the pedagogy in my own classroom.

Take for example this transcript of a child’s writing from Year 3. It demonstrates the parallels between the kind of writing struggling readers will produce and the text of the books they are given to read. Think Level 8 PM readers. If that is the only kind of texts that a struggling reader is exposed to, then you can understand why their writing is like this:

‘One the weekend I went to bowling it was fun we went to Hungry Jacks we went to the shop it was fun we went to our friend’s house it was nice we saw a video it was cool it was so cool’

It is clear from the example that they have not grasped the idea of punctuation.

Compare this to a Year 3 child who had worked with a Scaffolding Literacy teacher on the text The Twenty Seventh Annual African Hippopotamus Race, a book benchmarked at Year 4 level, over a six week period. Using an extract from the book for text patterning to model effective writing and rich language the student then produced the following text:

‘About eight o’clock last Thursday night, with the wind howling like wolves and the blossoms on the plum tree falling like snow, and our neighbour practising the piano, my Mum got dressed like a tornado. After checking her luggage she whirled right to the front door, gave her two boys a kiss and a quick hug, threw her bags into the car and waved goodbye as she drove off to the airport.’

Need I say anymore!

Scaffolded Literacy Text Desconstruction | Ridgy Didge Resources | Australia
Scaffolded Literacy Text Deconstruction Activity

How does Scaffolded Literacy work?

  1. Text Selection
    Select a rich text (I’ve outlined points to consider when doing this below)
  2. Text Orientation
    Here you will introduce the learners to the text as a whole. You will provide the learner with an overview of what the text is about. No opportunity is given for the learners to speculate or guess what the text might be about from clues given by the title or by illustrations. This can be confusing to weak readers and can also result in discussion that draws attention away from the text.
    The teacher then identifies and explains aspects of the overall text such as genre, author information, etc. Whose ‘voice’ is telling the story or providing the information is another important element of which the teacher needs to draw explicit attention. This is then followed by a brief synopsis of the plot, including information about the setting and characters. Also included in the overview will be an explanation of the reasons why the teacher and learners are going to work on this particular text.
  3. Aural Orientation
    Here you will read the whole text to the learners. The teacher’s reading will tune learners into the sound of the words and rhythm of the text.
  4. Language Orientation
    This step in the process will provide a more focused examination of the author’s language features. It is usually carried out by using an extract from the text, ranging from one or two sentences with young readers to one or two paragraphs with older readers. There are many things to consider in this step which I will not cover in order to keep this blog post to the point, but I would highly recommend reading Scaffolded Literacy by Beverley Axford to find out more here.
  5. Scaffolded Reading
    We don’t use this step in our Writing units as it isn’t necessarily relevant to the writing process but it is here that students are then called upon to carry out the task of reading the text extract on their own.
  6. Preparing the Writing Plan
    The aim of the writing plan is to reinforce for the learners what the author’s language is doing. This is a high level text analysis but is made possible because the teacher and learners have already built considerable shared knowledge about the author text.
  7. Reconstructing the Author Text
    As a whole class you can now reconstruct the extract from the book you have been deconstructing together. This is modelled carefully by the teacher, with student input, to replace certain types of words or sentences to jointly construct a new written piece based on the Text Pattern of the extract.
  8. Generating new text using Text Patterning
    Now your learners can begin writing their own text based on the text patterns they have deconstructed in the extracts you have explored together. This is first done together as a whole class and then learners are given time to work independently on their own written compositions.
  9. Providing Constructive Feedback
    A great strength of this approach to writing is that the common knowledge about text that has been developed throughout the Scaffolding Literacy work can be drawn on to provide explicit suggestions and constructive feedback to learners on how to develop their writing further.
Australian Curriculum Year 1 genre Writing Unit narrative | Ridgy Didge Resources | Australia
Take a look inside one of our Writing Units here to see what the Scaffolded Literacy looks like in action!

How do you choose a rich text?

  • As the aim of the Scaffolded Literacy approach is to make explicit the practices good readers and writers use, the teacher needs to go for depth rather than breadth. Teachers should choose a few well-selected texts and examine them in great detail and over time rather than using many different texts to model the same thing. This applies even to young readers.
  • Your selected text should contain examples of complex and syntactically rich language.
  • The text should be difficult but not too difficult. Vygotsky provides the theoretical bases for the assumption that for learning to take place the learner needs to work on tasks that are above their existing level of competence, but not so far above that success at the task will be beyond their reach.
  • The selected text should be interesting for both the teacher and the learners.
  • The text should be appropriate to a learner’s chronological age not their reading age. Because the strategies allow learners to work on texts they would not be able to read independently, teachers can choose texts with age-appropriate themes and language.
  • The selected text should included examples of the type of writing style or technique the teacher wants to teach the learners.
Scaffolded Literacy Text Selection | Ridgy Didge REsources | Australia
We have a great list of suggested texts for each year level that supports the Australian Curriculum here.

So there you have it! A super brief overview of Scaffolded Literacy.

Hopefully it gives you enough of an insight into why we so strongly believe that this style of teaching writing, reading and spelling is effective and why we use it as the basis for all our Genre Writing units here at Ridgy Didge Resources.

Got any questions? Leave them below and we will do our best to answer them for you!

Happy teaching!