Section 3: Language Scaffolding for Reading and Listening

What is Scaffolding?

The term scaffolding originates from the construction industry. It is a key concept in CLIL. Learners have a determined level of cognition in accordance with their age but their foreign language level is, generally, much lower. The gap between the cognition level and the language level is a major concern for CLIL teachers, and all the language support that learners are provided with is therefore within the ambit of language scaffolding.

Language scaffolding is an essential tool to achieve success in any CLIL context: if learners do not have the proper language support to communicate (either reading, writing, listening or talking), then the teaching process will fail.

In the slideshow below you have an introduction to the concept of language scaffolding. Be aware that visual metaphors are used as scaffolding for the term 'scaffolding'. Enjoy it!

Scaffolding by Carme Florit Ballester

In case your browser does not allow you to visualize the presentation above, you can access it here in PDF format: scaffolding._ppt.pdf

Exercise 1

While you watch the Scaffolding Slideshow, think about aspects of the metaphor which have parallels with teaching-learning in general and in a CLIL context in particular. Then compare your ideas with the ones offered by the presentation. At the end you may be able to write your own definition of Scaffolding in CLIL classrooms.

Have you noticed? The exercise above is based on visuals: we can introduce new concepts from images. Visuals are a strong tool to teach in CLIL, and an excellent scaffolding for your students!

Providing language support in CLIL

In the previous paragraph you were introduced to what language scaffolding meant. From now on the content is devoted to develop in practice the concept of scaffolding in reading and listening contexts.

When facing a text, either read or listened, learners may need a set of extra exercises that make them use the information they have been given. These language exercises are the language scaffolding for reading or listening.

In this short article, John Clegg explores the implications of teaching through a foreign language and the need to provide relevant language support.

Language Support Clegg by Carme Florit Ballester on Scribd

In case your browser does not allow you to open it, here is the pdf file language_support_clegg.pdf

Exercise 2: Questions for reflection

After reading the article, answer the following questions:

  1. What are the cognitive processes that the students will be engaging in?
  2. What aspects of language will this require them to use?
  3. Which of these aspects of language will they find difficult?
  4. How can a teacher provide support for these aspects of language?

Examples of language support for reading and listening

The following list provides you with different task types to implement language scaffolding for reading and listening. Keep this list near you when you are preparing your CLIL unit, it is useful to combine different scaffolding exercises for the same text.

You can also access this document in PDF format: Scaffolding for reading and listening - Task types

Scaffolding for reading and listening - Task types

Below, you will find examples of each task type proposed in order for you to have useful and practical ideas on how to give support for reading or listening:

1. Fill gaps:
'Fill in the gaps' exercises are ideal to focus on key words or on critical information of a text.
Chemistry/Geography Acid rain in Europe
Music The hapsichord and the piano, by Natán Bolívar (CEIP El Turó)
2. Match:
'Matching' exercises are good to reinforce the information of a text, and help to retain it in a more permanent way.
Chemistry - Matching heads and tails Testing acids and alkalis, compiled by John Clegg
Economy - Matching picture with sentence Economic sectors, by Esther Gonzàlez Jové (Ins Escola del Treball)
Maths - Matching word with definition Prime numbers and Composite numbers
Music - Matching word with description Characteristics of Music, compiled by John Clegg
3. Fill in a chart:
'Fill in a chart' exercises provide one of the best reading or listening scaffolding. They are perfect to have a sense of the connections between the relevant information of a text, and to explore the way it is organised. Flow charts are usually harder to prepare than matrices.
Biology - Flow chart Means of controlling Disease, compiled by John Clegg
Chemistry - Venn diagram Comparison of Acids and Alkalis
Geography - Flow chart Tropical rainforests, compiled by John Clegg
Maths - Flow chart Decimal numbers
Maths - Matrix Ancient mathematicians, by Maite Górriz (Ins Verdaguer)
Technology - Matrix Fuels, compiled by John Clegg
Science - Matrix Pollution, compiled by John Clegg
4. Pictures / Diagrams / Maps:
'Labelling' exercises are perfect to have a visual support of what is listened of read on a text ('a picture is worth a thousand words'). They also highlight the most relevant information of a text.
Biology Bones of human skeleton, by Deller, S., Price, C. Teaching other subjects through English. Oxford: OUP. 2010
Geography Orographic rainfall, compiled by John Clegg
Science The air cycle, compiled by Joan Alberich (Ins Frederic Mompou)
5. Notes:
'Taking notes' exercises are specially well fitted as listening scaffolding. They consist basically on writing frames. They are a good support to pay attention in advance to the information of the text. They are also good to establish relations between key sentences.
History - Spidergram The Bonapartist regime, text from Wikipedia
Maths - Fishbone diagram Who was Eratosthenes
6. Sequence:
'Sequence' exercises force the learners to read a text more than once. Therefore, they provide a good support to retain the information longer. They are also good to think about the coherence of a text when trying to put the different paragraphs or sentences in the right order.
Biology - Put in order the steps of an experiment Making an onion-cell microscope slide, compiled by John Clegg
Drama - Domino Macbeth, compiled by John Clegg
Physical Education - Put paragraphs in order Football, text from wikipedia
Technology - Key words Plastics - dictogloss, by Deller, S., Price, C. Teaching other subjects through English. Oxford: OUP. 2010
7. Sort cards:
'Sorting cards' exercises imply classification of information in most of the cases. They are therefore high order thinking tasks, and are usually a challenge for learners. Often, more than one answer is possible
History Nazi Germany, compiled by John Clegg
Music Characteristics of sound, compiled by John Clegg
Physical Education Motor skills, compiled by John Clegg
Technology/Chemistry Coal, compiled by John Clegg
8. Text marking:
'Text marking' exercises are the easiest tasks to prepare, and do not even require extra handouts. You can make learners highlight key words or relevant information.
Science The air cycle, compiled by Joan Alberich (Ins Frederic Mompou)

Exercise 3

Here you have a handout with five exercises, each one belonging to one task of reading scaffolding.

Reading scaffolding - Acids and Alkalis

Try to classify these five exercises into the different types of reading support. You can put crosses on the following grid (you may use more than one cross with some of the exercises):

Grid to classify scaffolding tasks

Resources to create own reading / listening scaffolding tasks

Teacher's pet

Teacher's pet logo

Teacher's Pet is a toolbar for your word processor for making fun and effective worksheets in DOC or PDF format. You can download the toolbar for free and all but four of the tools are unlimited. The Teacher's Pet uses macros in Microsoft Word and OpenOffice to transform text into classroom exercises.

This resource allows you to create scaffolding tasks with a simple clic of your mouse. Four of its most useful tools are:

  1. Pair-matching puzzle (matching heads and tails): Place a plus sign (+) in the middle of each sentence in a list and this tool will break the sentences in half, shuffling the order of the second half of the sentences. The students must put the sentences back together.
  2. Paragraph breaker (sequence): Place plus signs (+) where you want to break a block of text and this tool will shuffle the order of the lines.
  3. Move selected words to the end (fill in gaps): Select several words in a text and this tool will put them at the bottom of the document in an alphabetically order list, leaving blank spaces in their place, making a gap filling exercise.
  4. Jumbles (sequence): letter jumbles shuffle the letters of one word, word jumbles shuffle the words of one sentence, and paragraph jumbles shuffle the paragraphs of a whole text.

Hot potatoes

Hot potatoes logo

The purpose of the Hot Potatoes is to enable you to create interactive Web-based teaching exercises which can be delivered to any Internet-connected computer equipped with a browser. The exercises use HTML and JavaScript to implement their interactivity, but you do NOT need to know anything about these languages in order to use the programs. All you need to do is enter the data for your exercises (questions, answers, responses etc.), and press a button. The program will create the Web pages for you, and you can then upload them to your server. You can also print the exercises if you wish.

There are five basic programs in the Hot Potatoes suite:

  1. The JQuiz program creates question-based quizzes. Questions can be of four different types, including multiple-choice and short-answer. Specific feedback can be provided both for right answers and predicted wrong answers or distractors. In short-answer questions, the student's guess is anaylsed and helpful feedback to show what part of a guess is right and what part is wrong. The student can ask for a hint in the form of a "free letter" from the answer.
  2. The JCloze program creates gap-fill exercises. Unlimited correct answers can be specified for each gap, and the student can ask for a hint and see a letter of the correct answer. A specific clue can also be included for each gap. Automatic scoring is also included. The program allows gapping of selected words, or the automatic gapping of every nth word in a text.
  3. The JCross program creates crossword puzzles which can be completed online. You can use a grid of virtually any size. As in JQuiz and JCloze, a hint button allows the student to request a free letter if help is needed.
  4. The JMix program creates jumbled-sentence exercises. You can specify as many different correct answers as you want, based on the words and punctuation in the base sentence, and a hint button prompts the student with the next correct word or segment of the sentence if needed.
  5. The JMatch program creates matching or ordering exercises. A list of fixed items appears on the left (these can be pictures or text), with jumbled items on the right. This can be used for matching vocabulary to pictures or translations, or for ordering sentences to form a sequence or a conversation.

Exercise 4: Selecting language support for your unit

Choose a text you use with your students, and provide a set of at least three different scaffolding exercises from the list above. You can even create your own activities with Hot Potatoes or Teacher's Pet. Think of the language/content aspect you want to reinforce with the chosen tasks. You may like to select some tasks to create a graded sequence of activities. At least one of the tasks must be a matrix or a flow chart.

You can take advantage of this task for your final project.

If you do not have a text available, you can use this sample one (from youtube Coal combustion and acid rain):

Acid rain
To generate the energy needed in industrialized societies, vast amounts of coal have been burnt. When coal burns, it gives off great quantities of heat, energy and smoke.
Smokestacks emit so much smoke into the atmosphere that gases in the smoke are changing the very nature of clouds, causing a corrosive form of precipitation known as acid rain.
Sulphur dioxide, from burning fossil fuels, and nitrogen oxides, from automobile exhaust fumes, react with the water vapour in the atmosphere producing acidic vapours that mix with the clouds.
When the wind blows, these acid bearing clouds may be moved hundreds of kilometres away from the source of the pollutants.
The acid rain that results is damaging to water, forests, soil resources, and can corrode metals and the surfaces of buildings.
One way to address the problem of acid rain is to stop burning high sulphur coal. Coal with less sulphur releases less sulphur dioxide.
Another solution is to equip coal burning power plants with scrubber technology. Scrubbers are placed in smokestacks and force the sulphur laden smoke over suspended alkali particles, such as lime. The sulphur oxide reacts with these particles to form an ash that can be removed from the stack as a slurry or powder. Scrubbers can remove up to 95% of sulphur oxides from smoke before it reaches the air.