Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol and Use of Scaffolding in English and Maths Classrooms – Literature review Example

The paper “Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol and Use of Scaffolding in English and Maths Classrooms" is an exciting example of a literature review on education. Students whose primary language is not English often find it difficult to succeed in American classrooms. Various barriers such affect their ability to learn core subject matter. English Language Learners (ELLs) may be fluent in conversational English, but most likely do not have a grasp of academic English. According to the American Educational Research Association (2004, as quoted in Freeman & Crawford, 2008) academic English is defined as “the ability to read, write, and engage in substantive conversations about math, science, history, and other school subjects.” This lack of ability to communicate academic ideas is one reason for the high drop out rates of ELLs in schools across the country. In response to the unique problems faced by ELL students in mainstream classrooms, the Center for Research on Education, Diversity, and Excellence created a tool called the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol. Sheltered instruction is taught in English, but the teacher uses a variety of instructional methods to modify their delivery of the curricula so that all students can meet the objectives upon completion of the chapter, unit, or course. Freeman & Crawford (2008) highlight the eight concepts used to offer a variety of methods used by SIOP teachers: increase comprehensibility, scaffold, target vocabulary development, build on student background knowledge, increase connections to students’ lives and concerns, promote student-to-student interaction, increase higher-order thinking skills, and review and assess. This paper will focus on the use of scaffolding in English and Math classrooms.

Anyone who has ever learned a second language knows how difficult it can be to apply the words and sentences learned in the classroom to real-world settings. In her article “Shared Responsibility: Achieving Success with English-Language Learners,” Betsy Lewis-Moreno highlights this idea while discussing education in San Antonio, Texas. She criticizes the placement of ELLs in remedial classrooms and encourages teachers to help students learn from the mistakes rather than punish them for trying to express concepts that are new to them. No matter how gifted in his or her native language, the ELL student can be expected to make many errors when speaking or writing academic English. Lewis-Moreno suggests the use of scaffolding to provide feedback and constructive criticism so that the student “develops the knowledge and confidence to grow as a learner” (2007). Without such feedback, she suggests that students will not progress in their learning and they will continue to lag behind their peers in academic achievements.
It is relatively simple to incorporate scaffolding into the English/Language Arts classroom. As noted before, students may be very adept at core subjects in their native language. They may even have a good portion of their education completed prior to moving to the United States and entering American classrooms. It is the teacher’s responsibility to discover the ELL’s level of knowledge, then assist the learner to express their knowledge using English. One example she provides is to give the students partially completed graphic organizers. This way, more advanced students would have more blank sections to fill in themselves as they progress through the lesson while others may be given more completed organizers – perhaps with side-by-side explanations in English and their native language. This allows the student to be in the appropriate level classroom for their age and knowledge, making him or her more comfortable in expressing themselves and participating in the classroom, and increasing self-esteem. As the student grows in his or her ability to learn in English, the scaffolding technique allows for the teacher to gradually increase the amount of work required by the student until, optimally, the student is able to read the lesson and complete the homework independently.

Barbara Freeman and Lindy Crawford discuss the use of scaffolding in Mathematics courses in their article “Creating a Middle School Mathematics Curriculum for English-Language Learners” (2008). They cite the growing number of ELLs and a shortage of ELL-trained teachers as the basis for using SIOP, specifically scaffolding, to help students overcome the difficulties that are specific to learning math in the English language. This article details how technology can greatly increase the students’ ability to learn and focuses specifically on a relatively new web-based program called Help with English Language Proficiency (HELP) Math. Although designed to address the needs of Spanish-speaking ELLs by providing side-by-side language support in Spanish, this feature can be turned off and it is appropriate to use for any learner. Besides needing to learn English, math students also must learn what the authors call “the language of mathematics.” This includes complex new terms such as hypotenuse, familiar words that have a different meaning in math than in other courses such as chance or product, and symbols that may be different in English math than in the students’ native math. For example, in Spanish large numbers are separated by periods but in English, commas are used (10.000 vs. 10,000, for example). For these reasons, “to understand mathematics, a student needs to be able to read, solve problems, and communicate using technical language in a specialized context” (Freeman & Crawford, 2008).

In 2002, educational technology company Digital Directions Information (DDI) developed HELP Math. Using interactive multi-media, HELP Math is scaffolded to support ELLs and assist them in navigating this challenging topic. Students can explore the material at their own pace, and there are many tools available to them if they experience difficulty at any part of the lesson. These range from a “Need More Help” button to hyperlinks that offer vocabulary assistance as well as the option to hear and see the instructions in their native language (currently limited to Spanish) and then apply that to the English text. By providing extra help as the student needs it, the program is able to scaffold the learning – that is to assist the student to attain the next level of learning that he or she would not be able to attain on his or her own. This challenges the student and, according to exit interviews from beta tests, students fell “less stupid,” “less lost,” and “more willing to figure out what the teacher was saying” (Freeman & Crawford, 2008). Teachers also felt that HELP Math positively contributed to the classroom and the overall learning process.

These two articles demonstrate how the SIOP concept of scaffolding can be used in a variety of American classrooms. In addition to developing academic English skills necessary for Language Arts and Social Sciences, learning is also increased in sub-languages such as that of mathematics. Even students who were raised in America and go through their entire K-12 experience in English express anxiety over math and science because the concepts can be daunting to learn. Imagine how much more difficult those topics are for students who not only do not have a firm grasp of the English language but now also have to learn technical and confusing terms as well. With proper curriculum planning and a little bit of effort, incorporating scaffolding into a lesson plan should be relatively easy. This tool was developed to help teachers help students and should not be viewed as a hassle or even require that teachers change their lesson plans. Using SIOP concepts in the classroom decreases many of the frustrations that both teachers and students experience in specialized learning environments and as the idea becomes more widely utilized across America’s school's ELLs will become contributing and functional members of society rather than a statistic of drop-outs.