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Think about the last time you learned something new. Did you jump right in and immediately understand the new concept? Probably not. More likely, you used a number of strategies to help you learn. You may have looked up new vocabulary, connected the new knowledge to a familiar idea, or laid your thoughts out visually to help you understand. You knew to use these strategies because they worked for you in the past. Our job as educators is to teach learners how to use these supports.

Scaffolding is an essential strategy to cultivate learning and promote self-efficacy. When learners receive the supports they need, they see success and begin to believe in their own learning capabilities. Creating a scaffolded learning environment that utilizes tools to aid learners is a central goal for most educational practitioners. These scaffolded learning environments see higher rates of learner self-efficacy and success.

For families who are English Language Learners (ELL), a scaffolded learning experience is essential. Using NCFL’s family learning model, the English Language Learners’ Project (ELLP) in Detroit highlighted the central importance of scaffolding for ELL families. In the centers, practitioners helped parents acquire essential literacy skills in the Adult Learning class using primary grade books. These texts included features that supported parents’ literacy development. The readability levels, rhyme, rhythm, and repetition patterns helped parents conquer their own reading anxieties. By meeting parents at their skill and comfort levels and providing the supports necessary to learn, practitioners were able to slowly introduce more complex texts, knowing the adult learners possessed self-efficacy that would enable them to continue growing. While most parents were still English learners at the end of the program, they reported increased learner self-efficacy as a result of this scaffolded learning.

Parents and Children Together® Time (PACT Time) offers educators an opportunity to scaffold two-generational learning. When practitioners model educational interactions for parents, those parents are able to then reproduce that model with their own children. For example, by modeling the use of reading strategies for parents, we target multiple generations of learning when those parents go on to model those same strategies in scaffolded learning for their children.

How can educators scaffold learning experiences? A few strategies include:

  • Engage background knowledge. Successful educators know what their students know. By understanding what knowledge families bring with them, we better engage learners in acquiring new skills.
  • Pre-teach vocabulary. By helping readers acquaint themselves with new vocabulary before they encounter it in a text, practitioners help learners access deeper comprehension.
  • Talk, Talk, Talk. Allow students to learn socially. When learners are able to discuss concepts with their families or peers, they see ideas in a new way.
  • Use Visual Aids. Pictures, charts, graphs, and graphic organizers provide comprehension and organization support to families.
  • Question. Proficient practitioners ask first, second, and third level questions that invite students at every learning stage to participate. Encouraging families to question each other during PACT time is one way to encourage two-generation engagement with reading strategies.
  • Review. Never pass up the chance to address misconceptions and reinforce learning. Reviewing what was learned before parting ways fosters retention.

How do you scaffold learning? Do you have any strategies to add? Let us know in the comments!

The WonderPros have teamed up to bring you some introductory FREE webinars about using Wonderopolis® in the classroom as well as extending learning into homes. These 30- 45-minute webinars will serve as an overview of the content educators can expect in Wonderopolis’ upcoming professional development opportunities and will ensure they receive an invitation and special offer when registration opens.

If you can’t make the live webinar, be sure to register, anyway. We’ll send you a link to the replay to view as your schedule allows.

Join Wonderopolis® Community Manager, John MacLeod, for an introduction to Using Wonder to Increase Family Engagement on Thursday, April 11, 2019 at 4:00 p.m.

“I’d like to be more involved with my child’s learning at home but it’s hard to find the time.”  It’s a familiar phrase but it forces us to ask the question: how can we help families be more engaged in their students’ learning?  Join this webinar to get specific strategies on how Wonderopolis® can bring families together to read and wonder. As an educator, you’ll get resources to share with your parents to help your students continue their learning at home.  As a parent/caregiver, you’ll receive several quick examples of how Wonderopolis can be a springboard for great conversations and deeper learning that’s fun and interesting.

On Thursday, April, 25, 2019 at 4:00 p.m., Wonderopolis® Content Creator Amanda Free and Kristie Ennis, educator and consultant,  bring you #WonderHour: Sparking Wonder in Literacy Learning.

The spark of wonder we all feel as young learners tends to fade rather rapidly in adolescence and even more so when the realities of adulthood take over our lives. In order to grow as lifelong learners, we must rekindle that passion for questioning the world around us. In this session, we will explore #WonderHour, a way to re-capture the inquiry mindset in a literacy learning environment that encourages student choice, voice, and ownership of academic success.

This webinar will examine ways to incorporate #WonderHour in your classroom and reflect on the importance of wonder in academic success. Join us as we discuss how #WonderHour can help your students develop the 21st century’s most desired skills.

Join Wonderopolis® Developmental Editor and jack-of-all trades, Wendee Mullikin and Troy Hicks, Central Michigan University professor of English and education, on May 9th, 2019 at 4:00 p.m. They’ll be introducing Multimodal Writing: Beyond Boring Non-Fiction.

Teachers continue to serve diverse populations of readers and writers, especially in grades 3-8. Non-fiction, in particular, requires unique skills of our students as they consume online articles and produce their own publications. In an era of distraction, how might we engage our students with high-interest, inquiry-based texts?

In this 30- 45-minute webinar, join the team from Wonderopolis® as we explore these questions and ideas. As an introduction to our four-part course on informational reading and writing in digital spaces, you will:

  • Examine a few of our 2300 free, openly-available Wonders of the Day® as high-quality and high-interest non-fiction text,
  • Explore advanced features of the Wonders, looking at connections for vocabulary and comprehension instruction as well as to support visual literacy, and
  • Discuss opportunities for using the Wonders as mentor texts, inspiring students as writers who are creating their own non-fiction articles and multimodal projects.

Keep WONDERing with us! And don’t forget to sign up for:

Using Wonder to Increase Family Engagement on Thursday, April 11, 2019 at 4:00 p.m.

#WonderHour: Sparking Wonder in Literacy Learning on Thursday, April 25, 2019 at 4:00 p.m.

Multimodal Writing: Beyond Boring Non-Fiction on Thursday, May 9, 2019 at 4:00 p.m.

Did you miss the first webinar in the series? Catch the replay: Wonderopolis 101: A Crash Course in Curiosity hosted by John MacLeod, Wonderopolis Community Manager.

According to a 2014 article by John Traugott, 76 percent of people who wrote down their goals and shared them with someone were successful. In comparison, only 43 percent of those who didn’t write out or share their goals succeeded.

Studies like this are one reason NCFL uses goal-setting in its programming. Learners and practitioners work as a team to accomplish tasks leading to obtainment of a goal. Goal-setting is also a way to self-monitor progress—which increases self-efficacy.

Whether we’re looking at the Financial Fitness program or Healthy Family Habits, they all begin with a desire to do something—improve an aspect of one’s life. And, when it comes to literacy, the Cultivating Readers program can do just that.

Creating goals is hard work. Targeting a specific outcome can be difficult and sometimes frustrating—are we asking enough of ourselves? Not enough? Many of us have heard of SMART Goals. Keeping our sights set on reaching Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-based goals is important. If we create goals that are too broad or not measurable, how will we know when we’ve attained them?

A sample SMART goal for including literacy-based content at home might look like:

'We will read with our child for ten minutes after dinner for five out of seven nights per week over the period of one month and will track by placing a + (plus) on the calendar for a night we read and a – (minus) on the calendar for nights we did not read.'

     Specific: We will read with our child for ten minutes after dinner

     Measurable: Track on calendar with a + (plus) for night read and a – (minus) for no reading

     Attainable: Five out of seven nights per week

     Realistic: Yes—not expecting 100 percent compliance

     Time-based: Over the next month

In the classroom, nothing is more effective than having student buy-in for goals. Even when the goals are lengthy or multi-step, using student goal-setting with SMART Goals increases student drive to complete the tasks necessary to obtain the goal. A student may have a long-term goal of completing two credits of English in a school year, but that is a huge goal and should be broken down into bite-sized chunks, so learners can see—and celebrate—their accomplishments. An intermediary objective to meet that goal would be: I will receive a grade of C or above on every English assignment for the next marking period. This ‘mini-goal’ meets SMART Goal criteria and leads toward bigger picture success.

The celebration of meeting a goal is almost as essential as the goal itself. Learners celebrate in different ways and play an important role in planning a reward for their successes. Some learners don’t need tangible tokens—they’re comfortable with intrinsic rewards. Others require a small item to feel their progress is happening. These extrinsic rewards should match their task—keep bite-sized accomplishments worth something of less value than reaching the over-arching goal.

How do you motivate learners? How do you use goal-setting in your environment? Let us know in the comments! 

Author Les Brown once said, “No one rises to low expectations.” This is no secret in the world of education. Most practitioners discover early in their careers that learners rise to high expectations. This is due in part to the fact that holding high expectations for students communicates confidence in their abilities to succeed. Telling students, “You can meet these expectations through hard work,” promotes self-efficacy in the task at hand.

However, maintaining high expectations can be challenging; a number of obstacles stand in the way, including the low confidence many learners bring with them from prior school experiences. The challenge of helping children and adult learners understand their current abilities in order to set expectations adds another layer of complexity. Anyone can see how it would be easy to lower expectations. Still, to truly benefit learners of all ages, it is necessary to rise above these challenges. Practitioners must hold high expectations for their students and help those same students learn to hold high expectations for themselves.

NCFL has found that successful family learning programs are marked by high expectations for both staff and families. This makes sense — practitioners benefit from high expectations in the same ways learners do. When educators know others expect the best from them, they perform to their highest potential. In successful family literacy classrooms, this transfers to families.

In multigenerational learning, maintaining high expectations is essential to promoting self-efficacy in both parents and children. How can we communicate high expectations for families?

  • Use class time wisely. Plan meaningful instruction that fills the entire time slot. When class time is wasted, families may perceive that their learning is not worth investing in.
  • Provide models. Demonstrate your expectations through examples. When families understand what they’re striving for, they are more likely to succeed.
  • Focus on growth. Encourage families to celebrate each small victory along the way. Not all learners move at the same pace, and acknowledging each gain lessens the fear of failure.
  • Plan instruction that is developmentally appropriate. Instruction that is too easy tells learners you do not believe they can handle the next level. Instruction that is too difficult kills motivation to even try. Plan to target goals that are within reach but encourage growth.

Practitioners who hold high expectations for families establish a cycle of increased self-efficacy and success. What are your strategies for maintaining high expectations for staff and families? Do you have a success story to share? We’d love to hear from you!

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