Jean Samuel: "Before I became a CORI teacher, I posed a lot of questions myself and had students look for the answers in order to get the information from the text. Now, I try not to do that anymore. I want to allow my students to come up with their own questions and I see that they are much more authentic. Some of the questions are much deeper than I would have expected. I have seen such a shift when they are posing their own questions. For example, one very interesting question that came up when we were observing the peacock feathers was, "How do the peacocks move their tail feathers up and down when they have so many feathers?" I responded that we would have to read and discover the answer to the question. I didn't answer the question like I used to. Rather, I wrote the question on the board. We had so many great questions and I started writing them as a PowerPoint presentation. The students kept coming back to their questions during their research. It was exciting to them because they were their questions, not mine."
High Scaffolding in Penni Stockman's Lesson
It is the sixth week of school and the fourth week of a CORI unit for third-grade students who have been studying the conceptual theme, "Birds Around the World," in Penni Stockman's classroom. Her students are slightly below-average readers who are only occasionally motivated to read. They need her high scaffold for motivation. During the weeks before this lesson on graphic organizing, students learned a number of other reading strategies, including activating prior knowledge, questioning, searching for information, and summarizing. In addition, students participated in numerous real-world observations and experiences, including bird watching, owl pellet dissecting, examining bird feathers, walking in local habitats to find evidence of bird life, and feeding birds.
They have a plethora of books in the classroom with multiple genres and levels of text. For example, students have been practicing their expressive reading with partners using the book Owl Moon by Jane Yolen. Additionally, they have begun team research on a bird of their choice and will create an information book about the bird's many aspects of survival. For example, one team is studying the egret and how it survives in a wetland habitat. In their chapter book, they will discuss the various aspects of survival, including communication, locomotion, competition, and defense, among others.
It is important that students understand how to organize all of the animal information they are gathering from multiple texts. Therefore, Penni will begin a week-long instruction on the reading strategy of graphic organizing, using direct instruction, scaffolding, and independent practice as the main elements of her cognitive strategy instruction lessons. In addition, Penni will also use scaffolding for motivation to help students become autonomous learners who collaborate effectively, make appropriate choices, get involved in the books and the project they are writing, and take on challenges and risks in learning, while helping students maintain high levels of piqued curiosity. In this vignette, we focus on how Penni scaffolds for motivation during this very demanding cognitive task.
Penni works from a large blackboard using concept words and magnets to help students understand how to organize information. Keeping in mind the importance of collaboration, Penni asks the students to sit very close to her and the board, forming a semicircle on the floor. In this way, she configures the students' social environment, ensuring that everyone is close enough to attend, get involved, and be full participants in the lesson (environmental scaffold for social support and involvement).
On the blackboard, Penni has multiple index cards, circle cards, and one card that is the shape of a house displaying either a biome word (e.g., rainforest, wetlands, woodland, grassland, desert) or a bird name (e.g., heron, egret, blue bird, penguin, elf owl, etc.). She begins, "Today, we will work on organizing graphically. What are these words?" Penni points to the biome words on the board.
One student exclaims, "Biomes" (autonomy – student feels free to speak without having to raise hand and be called on). "Now, take a look at these words. Can you understand the way they are displayed now?" Penni inquires. The students respond that the words are very disorganized, to which Penni asks, "How then can I organize these words to figure out which bird lives in which biome?"
One student explains, "First, take the house card and put that on top, because all of these words are about bird homes." Penni complies with the student's request. Another student says that the words in the circles are important because they depict the biomes, so they should go across the board as headings. Again, Penni complies with the students' request (autonomy support – students are coming up with the organizational procedure themselves).
Penni asks, "So then what should we do with the bird names?" One student says that they should be placed under the biome headings to show where the bird lives. Penni reinforces the idea saying, "Oh, so here is a bird. What heading should I put it under?" One student says, "Wetlands." At this point, Penni randomly hands out bird name index cards to all of the students and they place the cards under the appropriate categories (conceptual knowledge – support for curiosity). When students have completed this activity, they vote on whether the names are categorized correctly (collaboration support).
Next, Penni explains, "Now we have the words in some order, but we have to come up with a way to show how these words are related. What could we do to show their relationships?" One student says, "You could draw lines connecting them." Penni asks, "How?" as she draws a line between a penguin and an owl. The student says, "You can't do that." Penni inquires, "Why not?" (knowledge challenging piquing student curiosity).
The student explains, "Because you are connecting across categories and you can't do that. All of the artic birds have to be connected together under the arctic category."
"Ohhh!" Penni says, "So I had better erase this line?" "Yes," the boy explains. (autonomy support – allowing student to be the expert, while the teacher simply follows his directive).
"Okay, so, how then should we connect these words?" Penni asks again and waits (environmental support – gives thinking time).
Students contemplate the words for a moment. One student says that they could put all of the biomes in a circle and make a web to connect them. Penni explains that they just organized these in categories and don't want to move them, just connect the words. Another student says, "Spread out the words and connect them like a ladder." Penni asks the class if they agree (collaboration and support).
"Great, it looks like we all agree. Before we start connecting, though, we had better check to make sure the birds are in the right categories." (comprehension strategy – support for graphic organizing). Students discuss words and categories with each other and begin telling Penni where to move the particular words that are misplaced.
Penni asks, "Where is my rainforest team?" (collaboration support – teams are becoming experts on birds in particular biomes). "Does a flamingo live in your biome?" (autonomy support personalizes the question "your biome"). Students seem to remember that although they may not be experts about each bird, they do know their own biomes. They excitedly talk with their teammates about their biome birds and figure out with their teammates which birds are not in the right biomes. They tell Penni to change the ostrich to the grassland. Penni then asks students to think about the Gila woodpecker. She reminds them that they know some other animal with the "Gila" in it that may help them. "Remember the Gila monster?" "Oh yeah," says one student, "they live in the desert."
"Great!" Penni says. "That's not cheating you know, that's using your resources" (conceptual knowledge scaffold for curiosity). Penni scaffolds some other changes by pointing out students' prior knowledge of the concepts they are studying, like feeding, asking, "Where do bald eagles like to build their nests?" and "What do egrets eat?" (conceptual knowledge scaffold). Penni also uses some of the real-world experiences to help scaffold students' knowledge. "We observed this bird's cousin's feathers the other day. Do you remember where this bird might live?" (real-world experience scaffold).
The students are very excited about their newly formed organizational structure that they constructed together. Now, Penni lowers the scaffold. She guides students to practice with partners using the organizing strategy. She provides some motivational scaffolds to help students maintain engagement. Penni explains, "When you go back to your seats, you will be working with a partner (collaboration). Use the book Feathers and Flight. (autonomy support – high text scaffold – teacher chooses text). You will read pages 4-12 (autonomy support – high text scaffold – teacher chooses pages to read) with your partner and find the main idea and the supporting details. I made a sheet with some main words from this reading to help you get started (comprehension strategy scaffold – provides partial chart with main ideas). However, there are many more important words. There are also shapes on this sheet. What kinds of shapes do you see?"
Students call out, "Ovals, squares, rectangles, squiggly shapes."
"Hmmm," Penni ponders aloud. "When you look at these shapes, which do you think is going to be the main idea? Which is different from the rest?" (conceptual knowledge scaffold for curiosity – helping students recognize the main idea).
One student says that plumage is different. Penni says, "Yes, plumage is the main idea of this section of text. I want you to organize these words and add your own words to be organized (autonomy support), but you must read in order to organize these ideas. then, cut the words apart and make a graphic organizer to show how all of these words are connected and related. You and your partner will make a concept map. You can choose whichever way you want to make your map. You could do it like we did on the board, or a web, or any way you want, as long as you are showing the main ideas and supporting details in an organized map (autonomy support – students choose how to display their own knowledge). Also, you may choose your partner. Make sure you can work well with whoever you chose. If there is a problem, I will assign a partner to you (collaboration support). "OK, let's review the directions." Penni writes the directions on the blackboard as students tell her what to write (environmental scaffold for autonomy and self-direction).
Students choose their partners and go to their own space in the classroom. Each student is equipped with the book Feathers and Flight. Some students read aloud together with their partners, while others decide to read independently and then discuss what they read (autonomy support – students deciding how to complete the task. Students are very engaged and show great levels of independence).
Penni walks around to check on the progress of each pair. She gives students plenty of time to read and concentrate on the task at hand (environmental scaffold). After approximately 15 minutes, Penni calls the class to attention to check understanding and provide a partial model for struggling students. "Okay, boys and girls, turn to page 8 of your book, to the section on tail feathers. On this page, you will find supporting words that explain the functions of tail feathers. For example, this section says, 'Most birds use tail feathers to steer.' Steer is a supporting detail of tail feather and should be in your organizer" (comprehension strategy scaffold).
Penni reads aloud some other sentences from the text to give additional examples. "So, you want to make sure that the text is supporting the words that you categorize. Also, some other words may be related to each other. Remember, when we do our summarizing strategy, we use the circle (main idea), underline (supporting details), and cross out (irrelevant details) strategy. When we organize, we are doing the same thing. We are choosing the most important ideas to organize (comprehension strategy scaffold for efficacy). If you go one section at a time for each type of feather, the organizing task will be easier."
Based on Penni's prompts, many students go back to the text to justify their words and reorganize them as necessary. Students excitedly glue the words on their maps. Multiple pairs use different strategies for organizing their text and words. Penni calls the class together. "I'd like a couple of partners to share their work on organizing. Show us your map and tell us how you organized the words" (personal expression scaffold). One pair of students explains their map and connections they made for an organizer in chart-like form. Another pair shares their map that is a concept web. Penni enthusiastically announces, "I'm impressed with your work. As you can see, there are many different ways to organize, as long as you can explain how and why you organized the way you did." (autonomy support scaffold – multiple pathways to the correct response).