Oh scaffolding, how you continue to elude me!
I have been thinking a lot about gradual release of responsibility lately because I have continued to struggle to provide the correct level of scaffolding and structure to the activities we do in our after-school science club, STARS. Or, perhaps I am struggling with modifying my expectations to better align with the fact that students need more time than I allow to go through an iterative process when authentically working on activities and that initial attempts can…and should…result in products that are not as developed “as I would like.”
Most likely, my struggles grow from both of these circumstances and more!
Last week, we planned an activity during which students would create draft informational fliers to support our partnership with the Verona Street Pet Shelter. To structure this activity, we provided a Google drive of pictures from our visit to the pet shelter and sentence prompts that we thought the students would be able to use generate guidance for pet owners about what to do keep pets happy and healthy. This idea has been the focus of our time together, so we wanted to give the students the opportunity to express what they have learned.
“Animal behavior benefits from ________ because ________.”
“Providing animals with ________ keeps them happy and healthy because ________.”
We also provided some rules that we thought would be sufficient to structure the activity:
Size = 8.5″ x 11″
Number of information sentences = 6
Number of pictures = 3
Things got off to a confusing start because we decided to have the students use the online tool Canva to make their flier drafts. None of the students were familiar with Canva, and although we had scheduled some play time, we really could have spent an entire session just trying it out. I had certainly spent at least that much time playing with Canva when I first used it!
In addition, although we told students to get started playing with the general format of their flier and the informational sentences while they waited for us to provide them with access to the Google Drive pictures, they were immediately focused on needing to get the pictures before anything else. We wasted a lot of time getting them all access.
We didn’t end up with any draft fliers that met our criteria; however, the students put together some really nice ideas! Check them out!!!
So, in the end, I think we tried to do way too much all at once. In such a brief after school session, we did not have enough time to introduce Canva and provide a chance to get comfortable with it, review all the pictures from our Verona Street visit to select which ones to include in the flier, and write up to six informational sentences using our previously developed knowledge and our sentence prompts.
If I were to do this again, I would:
- Use Google Slides because the students were already familiar with that tool. Canva has cool templates, but they really aren’t necessary for the project, and with our limited amount of time with the students, I don’t think providing sufficient time to play with Canva would be the best use of our time.
- Have reduced the number of pictures the students were reviewing and selecting from. We gave the students access to our full Google Drive folder of pictures, but we hadn’t vetted them ourselves yet. There was no need to have the students review so many pictures at the time they were making their flyer drafts.
- Have asked for their email addresses earlier so that we could have shared the pictures with them all before the activity started.
- Devoted an earlier session to writing up six informational sentences that all the students had reviewed and decided to use. The students had some great ideas, and we had briefly discussed these sentences before in earlier sessions; however, we needed to have explicitly generated these informational sentences before so that the students weren’t spending time at this session to write them.
We plan to move towards finalizing our flier this week. Our plan is to have students review the drafts they made and select which components they want to include in our final version. Instead of having students choose from a world of options, however, we will narrow the selection of templates, sentences, and images. In truth, they did most of this work for us by making their selections next week! So, maybe we made a better start than I think?!!?
What about you? What would you have done differently to get this project off to a smoother start?
We’ll let you know how it goes!!!