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This Week’s Episode: Structural Scaffolds
When I was in grad school, the main model of therapy that I saw in the clinic/with supervisors was drill-based. So that’s what I took to the classroom!
But what I found when I was implementing that style of therapy is that the students weren’t generalizing these skills to the classroom. 🤔
This prompted me to look into research to help me facilitate generalization for students, and that research led me to….
There are so many ways that we can set our students up for success, including establishing routines within the session. This is really important because it makes the session more predictable and familiar for students, which helps them to save their mental bandwidth for the work at hand. This is something that scaffolding helps us to do!
In this episode I talk about structural vs interactive scaffolding, and do a deep dive into structural.
Let’s get to it!
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Now, officially on to the scaffolding strategies. So like I said, we have two main types. We've got structural and interactive. And there are three types of interactive scaffolds. So we've got regulatory, response and linguistic. So we are going to start off with structural scaffolds and I'll give some different examples to find them, give some examples and we'll go through the two main types and the subtypes. And then once we knock these out, then the next sections of the course, we will dive into some practical application. So if you have any questions about what this would look like, feel free to drop them in the chat and then I will be sure to answer those as we go through the demonstrations.
So first step, structural scaffolds. So these are the things that we do ahead of time to make sure that the session is meaningful and purposeful for the student. And they're key to more efficient therapy sessions that we can be confident about. So just planning ahead will help us engage the students. As soon as they walk into the room and then also prevent any last minute scrambling for materials, which I've definitely done. So it's definitely something that we can aspire to though.
So here are some things that we can do to set our students up. So we can establish routines within the sessions. So this is really important because it makes the session more predictable and familiar for our students. And then the student doesn't have to be worried about what's next. They can really just focus all of their energy, their brain energy, on the skill that we're working on. So they don't have to be... They can feel secure and solid and just give everything to the skill at hand. And so an example of a routine that we might have, I really like using goal cards with my students. So we set those up at the beginning of the school year, we talk about their goals, we talk about why they matter and we revisit that anytime we redo the IEP. So yeah, the students walk in, they grab their goal cards. That's part of the routine. They go through their goals as I'm collecting.
One thing I really like to do and I'll explain that more later, but I collect a quick probe at the beginning of the session. So the students know they grab their cards, they review their goals, remind themselves of why they matter and then as they're doing that, I go around the group and grab quick probes from each student. And that was when we were in person, but a similar structure could work when you're doing teletherapy. And so that's the routine for the beginning of the session. Then we have the routine in terms of... They know the structure of the literacy based therapy unit. So it looks a little different every session, depending on which step we're on, but they know that we have goal review probes. We do our practice and then we wrap up the session, we put away the goal cards, we'd go back to class and that's the whole routine.
Another thing that we can do is to carefully select our treatment materials. So we've talked a lot about that already. And then we can select themes that are related to what they're talking about in the classroom and just share what we're doing with the teachers as well. I've shared some of my different graphic organizers related to skills that students are targeting. I had a nice little visual for WH questions. And it's really cool because I made it for that one student and the teacher ended up making a bunch of copies and pasting it on a bunch of students' desks because apparently my student wasn't the only one who needed help with questions. But I showed her how to use it and then she was able to use it too. Sorry, that was a little bit of an aside, but I think that can be super helpful and that can be a structural scaffold for the classroom.
And then, now we get to talk about the plan and the setting of therapy. So we can look at the activities that we have planned and this can... So we can modify the order of presentation. So we can be strategic. Maybe we pick something that's really challenging and complex right at the beginning and then we save something easier for the end of the session when they might have less energy. We might strategically teach before we dive into an activity. That can be a strategic organization of the presentation. Another thing that we can do is modify the environment. So we can provide therapy in a quiet room versus in the classroom. We can provide therapy in a smaller group. We can provide visuals. Those are all different things that we can think of ahead of time. We can modify the length of the session. We can modify the frequency of the session. These are all things that we can do ahead of time to set students up for success. And then we can also enlist peers to provide support. There's some really cool research on that.
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