Modeling in the classroom and scaffolding are things you should be doing EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Whether you’re a public school teacher, homeschooler, or virtual teacher, we should all be teaching our kids skills that will be foundational in how they understand the world around them and function in society. But, it’s important to remember that we need to be modeling effectively to truly be successful.
Years ago when young men and women were learning a trade or craft, they would apprentice under a master. This master was highly skilled in their particular trade, and after years (anywhere from three to seven) of study, these young people were given the coveted title of master themselves.
As you probably already know, these skills and trades were typically passed down through family lines and therefore, certain family names became synonymous with that trade. But it was also common to find non-related young people living with a master craftsman in exchange for constant access to the knowledge of his trade.
Today, there are still many programs that require a certain amount of “on-the-job” training before being given the opportunity to work in that field. Electricians, plumbers, paramedics, even teachers and physicians gain “master” status AFTER completing a specific amount of study and training.
I was awarded my teaching certificate ONLY after completing my student teaching. I went to school every single day and learned by watching my mentor teacher. This was an individual who had been a teacher for many years. Initially, I just watched and absorbed all of the things this teacher did. I noticed how she handled interruptions, observed how she dealt with time management, and asked questions whenever possible to gain a deeper understanding as to why she did certain things.
But, did you realize that this is simply modeling effectively?
What is Modeling in the Classroom?
Dictionary.com defines modeling as “a standard or example for imitation or comparison.” So, in the most basic sense, modeling is showing someone how to do something. As teachers, we want our kids to follow certain steps that we model every day. So, we read aloud, break down difficult concepts, and talk them through instructions in an effort to show them how to perform specific tasks.
Just a fancy way of saying, “Let me show you how to do this.”
Modeling in the classroom effectively and consistently is actually very simple if you know these three steps.
- I do. You watch.
- We do together.
- You do. I watch.
In other words, I’m the master and you need to watch me do the skill correctly many times first. Then when you’ve shown understanding, we work on the task together. Once you’ve shown mastery at that level, I’ll step back and let you complete the task while I watch. Finally, upon completion of step 3, you can complete the skill without any supervision.
One important point to note is that you need to give ample time for completion of step 3. You don’t just want to watch a kiddo do something once and assume they’re masters. Allowing them to work independently will require a removal of supervision over time to the point where supervision is unnecessary.
To be honest, I’ve been guilty in the past of letting my kids move straight from the second step to independence without supervision. Unfortunately, this is detriment because they need the opportunity to mess up in a safe environment. In other words, they know you’re still available to help as needed, but you only intervene when and if it’s necessary. Therefore, we should be mindful of the importance of each step.
Modeling and Scaffolding
Another word associated with modeling is scaffolding. (This word was coined by a psychologist name Lev Vygotsky. And without getting into a bunch of educational lingo, let’s just say he was a pretty smart guy. If you’re interested in learning more about him, Google him.)
While this sounds technical, it simply means to move your kiddos to a deeper understanding and independence in that understanding. Just as a scaffold holds someone as they are going higher into the air to perform a task, scaffolding in the classroom refers to the role teachers play in the education of kids. We are there to stretch them in their learning and provide support as they go more in-depth in the learning process.
In a nutshell, scaffolding and modeling in the classroom mean you are helping your kids move from Point A in their understanding and skill development to Point B. Your most important job is to guide them on the journey and slowly relinquish control as they show deeper knowledge and understanding. At the appropriate time, you remove your assistance altogether giving them the reins to their learning and their lives.