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CLIL4U Pre-Course Unit 7 - Scaffolding & ZPD

Scaffolding and the Zone of Proximal Development

In CLIL learning, knowledge of subject content and of new language are constructed at the same time (1).

Students almost always begin with some basic knowledge of the content and of the language that they are learning. In geography, for example, learners might know that Australia is a land far away, where kangaroos and koalas are found (2); but they need to be shown that Australia is a continent, often very hot and with a small population (3). In the same way, they might know how to say that Australia is a big country, with a lot of desert and not many people; but they need to be taught how to say that it is bigger, drier and has fewer people than its neighbour, India (4).

In each CLIL lesson, new content and new language are introduced to build on the foundation the students already have (5).

Each student constructs new knowledge at his own pace, moving from simple awareness, to real understanding and proficiency. When the student is between the two, the new knowledge or skill is developing, but cannot be used independently and confidently (6). During this stage of learning, the student can benefit from support to move on. It is often called by the metaphor of ‘the Zone of Proximal Development’ or ZPD (7).

But how can we help the student to move on? A variety of ways of supporting learning can be utilised (8). This support is described by the metaphor of ‘scaffolding’ (9), because it enables learners to build their knowledge higher and higher, providing a platform from where to construct the next level of understanding.

One example of how learning can be scaffolded is the use of graphic organisers (10). Data processing is made easier, and thinking skills such as comparing and contrasting, sequencing, recognising relationships and classifying are developed with tools like tables and grids, flow charts and mind maps (11).

Below you can listen to the audio file of the text.

Click on the button below to return to the Unit and read the Language Focus.

After reading the Focus, you will be able to practise the language point by doing a series of exercises. 

This Unit forms part of a language course designedto help teachers refreshtheir English language skills.

It was developed as part of the EU Project ‘CLIL4U’, and is intended as preparation for the main CLIL4U course onTeaching through CLIL.

To follow the language course, click on the CLIL4U Pre-Course Homepage button below.

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