The potential of scaffolding at ECE
IF you don’t know about the potential of scaffolding in the early years, then this article is for you.
But before you get out of your trusty toolbox, it’s got nothing to do with remodelling your early years setting!
Scaffolding in the early years is a teaching strategy that could make all the difference to your children’s development, and it’s very simple and essential for every early-year activity.
It’s all about offering a supportive role, as opposed to a more spoon-fed role. And with it, you can help your children achieve and succeed! What is scaffolding and why is it useful?
Scaffolding is a term often associated with older children, so it may or may not have crossed your radar yet.
That being said, your natural interactions with the children in your setting are scaffolding their learning all the time.
But by understanding the process properly, you can be even more planned in your interactions with your children, and make use of all the opportunities to scaffold that come up with everyday activities.
To summarize scaffolding is about supporting children’s development and learning during their early years by offering just the right help at just the right time in just the right way.
There is always a difference between what a child can do independently and what they can then do with some support (known as Vygotsky’s ‘zone of proximal development).
This is where scaffolding comes in, as it allows children to solve a problem or carry out a task that is beyond their current abilities.
Practitioners are there to build a bridge between a child’s existing knowledge and their new knowledge.
That way, children can build upon the skills they already have. With the right amount of assistance from you, as well as their previously mastered skills, children can perform new activities and start gaining new skills.
By providing children with the right level of support, they will achieve much more than they would without your help.
In the scaffolding framework, practitioners play a supportive role in the child’s learning.
Their role is also to observe the children, recognize the stage of learning they are at and then provide support to help them to reach the next stage.
You should work to provide activities just slightly above the children’s ability. When children are given the support they need while learning something new or attempting a new activity, they will stand a better chance of using that knowledge independently.
Traditionally, supporting children was all about telling a child how to do something until they got the knack for it.
And of course, scaffolding may still require specific instructions from time to time. But in general, we now know that there are better ways to transfer your knowledge down to young minds.
With that in mind, let’s go through a few ideas that might facilitate ECCE caregivers and practitioners to apply their knowledge more effectively and assess the performance of the learners.
Hints: Providing hints is one way to scaffold effectively. You’re helping advance the children’s performance, but without giving away the entire solution.
Hints could be verbal, pictures, or gestures to aid a child in reaching the answer or completing the task.
Suggestions: Offering a range of answers to a question, or a range of ways to complete an activity is another technique that can be used.
If you can see that a child is struggling with the task at hand, provide suggestions to build that bridge between what they already know and what they are trying to grasp.
Resources: Make the most out of additional resources in your available setting. Prompts: Using prompts is a great way to extend children’s thinking.
Model and demonstrate. Help show your children what to do, or how to solve a problem, through modelling or demonstrating – not by outrightly telling them.
Feedback: Provide just the right amount of support and feedback, at the same time as giving plenty of encouragement.
You can positively respond to both right and wrong answers, as this will encourage participation.
Make sure to give praise to children, not only for succeeding but for attempting the task in the first place.
Questioning: Asking open-ended questions is a way to get children to use their imagination a little.
Step-by-step: Breaking the tasks into smaller steps can help stuck children. Group work: Lastly, don’t think that scaffolding has to be a one-to-one activity.
In fact, in a lot of cases activities are best to do with a group of children, as they can then learn a lot from one another.
Also, try not to create your groups of children only based on their abilities, as this will limit the scaffolding that can take place.
Scaffolding for practitioners: All in all, scaffolding in the early years is just about observing and providing suitable activities, at the same time giving instructions, guidance, and feedback throughout.
Scaffolding is how you can provide support for children’s learning in a way that is well-timed and well-matched to the situation and child.
Do make sure to watch out to make sure your children aren’t struggling or becoming frustrated, as these may be signs that the task is too hard and you need to move on to something different.
Your setting matters, too. You may have got your early years’ supportive role, but your setting can be a powerful tool to help you out, too.
Ensuring that it’s organized in a way that will allow scaffolding to happen will make everything easier for everyone.
The aim is to promote student success by supporting children’s independent functioning.
We want children to be interacting with their environment and the materials you provide, giving them opportunities to meet their own needs, solve their problems, and make their own choices.
By exploring their surroundings in their early years, children develop new knowledge and connect it with their previous understanding.
—The writer is a senior educationist and freelance contributor.