Revista ELectrónica de Investigación y EValuación Educativa // 1998 // Volumen 4 // Número 1_3
ISSN 1134-4032 // D.L. SE-1138-94




Lorri M. Johnson-Perrodin
Todd V. Fletcher, Ph.D.
Candace S. Bos, Ph.D.
University of Arizona



          For culturally and linguistically diverse learners, scaffolded instruction is important for not only content learning but for second language learning. In this case study of two bilingual education teachers and their third grade students, we expand the traditional concept of scaffolded instruction (e.g., experts, tools, routines) to include Krashen's notion of comprehensible input (1982) as a scaffold for acquiring a second language yielding an effective transfer of first language (L1) academic language development to second language (L2) academic language development. A variety of scaffolds were used as multiple support systems that facilitated the biliteracy learning process for the students. Peer interactions, expert/ novice groupings, and literacy tools and routines were some of the scaffolds used to facilitate biliteracy instruction. Key to transfer from L1 to L2 was the teaching the tools and routines in the students' L1 prior to biliteracy instruction. Considerations for students with language/learning disabilities (LLD) were included in this case study. Results suggest that by scaffolding for L2 development using previously acquired knowledge from first language (L1) instruction, students including those with LLD efficiently transferred cognitive academic skills from L1 to L2. Educational implications are discussed.


          Para alumnos cultural y linguisticamente diversos, la instrucción basada en el andamiaje es importante no unicamente para el contenido del aprendizaje sino para el aprendizaje de un segundo idioma. En este estudio de caso de dos profesores bilingües y sus alumnos de tercer curso, ampliamos el tradicional concepto de instrucción mediante andamiaje (e.g.,expertos, herramientas, rutinas) incluyendo la noción de Krashen de entrada comprensiba (1982) como un apoyo para adquirir un segundo lenguaje produciendo un transfer efectivo del primer idioma desarrollado academicamente (L1) al segundo (L2). Una gran variedad de andamiajes fueron usados como sistemas de apoyo múltiple que facilitan el proceso de aprendizaje bilingüe en los alumnos. Interacciones con los compañeros, agrupamientos experto/novato, herramientas de lectoescritura y rutinas fueron algunos de las ayudas empleadas para facilitar la enseñanza bilingüe. La clave para transferir de L1 a L2 fue la enseñanza de herramientas y rutinas a los estudiantes en L1 previas a la enseñanza bilingüe. Támbien se ha incluido en este caso de estudio consideraciones para alumnos con dificultades de aprendizaje y en el lenguaje. Los resultados indican que apoyando el desarrollo de L2 usando el conocimiento previo adquirido del primer idioma (L1), los estudiantes, incluidos aquellos con dificultades de aprendizaje y en el lenguaje, transfieren eficientemente las habilidades cognitivas académicas de L1 a L2. Las implicaciones educativas son también tratadas.



          Educators, like scaffolds used in the process of constructing a building, are crucial, albeit temporary supports that assist students as they develop knowledge, strategies, and skills. With both construction and educational scaffolds, levels of support move from outwardly visible or external to abstract or internal. That is, the support that is originally provided by external supports are replaced by the internal structural supports of the building. In educational settings, teachers as external scaffolds enable students to accomplish tasks with assistance which they eventually will do independently. After students have sufficiently internalized the knowledge and strategies, these become part of students' schemas and accessible to use in future learning. In other words, scaffolds are temporary supports, provided by more capable individuals that permit learners to participate in complex processes before they are able to do so unassisted (Peregoy & Boyle, 1997).

          Scaffolded instruction is associated with Vygotsky's sociocultural or sociohistorical theory of development (Vygotsky, 1978). Using this theory, instruction is typically characterized by social interactions between learners/novices and experts (e.g., parents, teachers, more capable peers) that precede students' internalization of new understandings and skills (Winn, 1994). Scaffold instruction takes place within students' zones of proximal development (ZPD) (Vygotsky, 1978). To teach in the ZPD is to be responsive to the learners' current goals and stages of development and to provide guidance and assistance that enables students to achieve those goals and at the same time, to increase their potential for future participation (Wells, 1998). Teachers create the ZPD by engaging the students in learning activities that require them to make challenging stretches in their development. Scaffolding the instruction by providing temporary supports is one of the primary means teachers use to ensure students are learning within the ZPD. As part of scaffolded instruction teachers build on the students' life history, that is the culture and experiences that students bring to the learning activities. For learners who are culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) in comparison to the school culture, incorporating cultural history and home experiences into school learning provides scaffolds that supports learners making connections between the funds of knowledge that are found in their home culture and that of the school (Moll, Amanti, Neff, & Gonzalez, 1992).

          For CLD students as well as for students with language/learning disabilities the routines that develop through scaffolded instruction are important for transfer of learning. For example, the completion of story frames to promote comprehension of a story can transfer to the routine of completing expository text frames (e.g., descriptive, cause/effect, sequential) when the students are well acquainted and comfortable with the use of story frames. Although the notion of routines can be generalized to all learners, predictable routines serve a unique function for second language learners in that using routines allow second language learners to more easily focus on learning a second language by lowering their anxiety levels associated with using unfamiliar routines and educational experiences. Routines, however, provide effective learning scaffolds only to the extent that they are sufficiently familiar and appropriate to students prior cultural experiences (Peregoy & Boyle, 1997).

          As related to bilingual education and instruction for CLD learners, the concept of scaffolding has most commonly been associated with home culture, home language, and literacy development. Based on a longitudinal study of effective instruction in bilingual classroom settings, Moll (1992), in his discussion of teaching second language students, emphasized the importance of "utilizing available resources, including the children's or parents' language and knowledge, in creating new, advanced instructional circumstances for the student's academic development" (p. 23). These sociocultural recommendations tie teaching methods and strategies to the learners' cultures. These kinds of educational provisions can unequivocally be met through scaffolding within a culturally appropriate environment when scaffolding is ongoing and perceived as an essential primary aspect of instruction. Not unlike the recommendations drawn from Moll's work, the Kamehamea Elementary Education Program (KEEP) research project infused students' cultures into reading lessons and made use of scaffolds that entailed modeling, feedback, and questioning (Tharp & Gallimore, 1988). These considerations were effective for promoting student achievement and provided research based insights for educators who teach CLD learners, especially students that are considered Limited English Proficient and as a result participate in bilingual education ir English as a second language programs. Thus, expert/novice scaffolds can play a important role in bilingual education.

          While the interpersonal expert/novice interactions provide scaffolds to support student learning, tools can also serve to bridge the gap between students' actual developmental levels and that required for independent problem solving (Englert, et al., 1995). When participating in literacy instruction, typical tools might include story maps, text structure frames, personal dictionaries, concept diagrams, response journals, writing processes, word processors, and spelling and grammar checkers. Like experts, these tools function as guides that enable students to perform at higher levels than they would have without such supports. For example, having students complete and use a story map as they read and retell a story can substantially improve the quality of the students' retellings. Tools also serve an important function in that tools used in one learning experience can be used in similar learning experiences hence promoting transfer of learning (Reyes & Bos, 1998). For example, the story frame used in assisting students to identify the major features of a story written in the students' L1 (Spanish) can also be used to assist the students when reading another story in the students' L2 (English).

          A concept that seems compatible with scaffold instruction is Krashen's concept of comprehensible input (1982). Krashen developed the concept as it relates to promoting second language acquisition. An abstract concept, comprehensible input is language used in ways that make it understandable to the learner while second language proficiency is limited. Comprehensible input makes learning more meaningful, more purposeful, and at the learner's level. Within a sociocultural framework, it appears quite logical to view comprehensible input as receptive sophisticated scaffolds that enable students to more readily acquire a second language within a well-supported zone of proximal development. As related to transfer from first language of instruction (L1) to the acquisition of a second language (L2), comprehensible input as an identifiable scaffold becomes an important tool for teachers and their CLD students. For example, if teachers are aware that their third grade students are able to compose letters in L1 using structured outlines that include a heading, greeting, body, and closing; those same students will eventually be able to complete the same process using the same outlines in their L2. In this case the comprehensible input would be the L2 instruction contextualized by the same familiar structure outline that was used in L1 instruction. This L2 instruction can be viewed as comprehensible input because students are able to easily understand its connection via their background knowledge and previous learning experiences in L1. This comprehensible input can be identified as second language instruction of cognitive tasks that have been internalized in a learner's primary language. L 2 instruction is comprehensible in that it uses the same teaching routines and tools from prior instruction in L1. Furthermore, this article introduces a first language organizational framework (L1OF) which can be explicitly taught to students as text structures within a literacy scaffold and can promote more meaningful second language learning. A unique characteristic of learners' use of L1OF is that their scaffolds do not always come from adults or more competent peers. Additionally, the knowledge and strategies being developed are based upon the language competence students already possess in their first language, thus the students provides their own internal scaffolds. In this manner the teacher becomes a facilitator for the scaffolding process which is carried out within the sociocultural context of the classroom.

          In sum, a more holistic definition of scaffolded instruction that applies to all learners, views scaffolding as sociocultural interactions between the learner and adults or more capable peers. This definition also includes the tools that structure learning to enable students to work in their zones of proximal development, thereby challenging them to reach their next level in development in an environment where culturally relevant routines have been established (Peregoy & Boyle, 1997). In that comprehensible input is purposeful language that enables students to further develop L2, mediated by an "expert" or "expert knowledge", it can also be considered a type of scaffold. "Expert knowledge" can be identified as the language skills a learner has previously internalized and demonstrated fluency using their primary language of instruction. As a scaffold, this knowledge can act as a conduit for transfer of target information to a learner's L2. Jimenez (1996) highlighted the need for language-specific strategies that could more effectively facilitate L2 acquisition in learners as well as the need for the transfer of strategies across languages.

          Given this background, the purpose of this article is to expand the traditional concept of scaffolded instruction (e.g., experts and tools) to include Krashen's comprehensible input as a scaffold for acquiring a second language yielding an effective transfer of L1 academic language development to L2 academic language development. Furthermore, this article describes how two bilingual teachers enacted these constructs using biliteracy instruction with the goal of serving all of their children including those with language/learning disabilities.

          In the classroom example presented in this article, the scaffolds for second language acquisition for both English and Spanish learners are (a) routine knowledge of text structures in L1 within a literacy scaffold (L1OF and text structure scaffold), (b) teacher directed mini-lessons (expert scaffold and comprehensible input), (c) buddy reading (peer expert scaffold), and (d) similar language groups (peer expert scaffold and L1OF). In effect, this article describes a constructivist application of educational research and theory that encompasses scaffolding language arts through biliteracy instruction for Latino students and introduces the concept of L1OF.


Setting and Participants

          The teachers in this classroom example were Lena and Marta, two bilingual teachers in a bilingual elementary school in the southwestern region of the United States. These teachers' goal was to explore the concept of scaffolded instruction and L1OF in their third grade bilingual classrooms so as to meet the needs of their students in what they considered to be a challenging teaching situation. In this school more than 90% of the 650 students were on free or reduced lunch programs, and ethnicity at the school was 93% Latino, 2% Native American and 5% represented by other groups. The community was transitional as many immigrant families moved into the community long enough to become financially stable then moved elsewhere in the city.

          The district philosophy encouraged site-based management. With regard to bilingual education, the site team decided that teachers were responsible for literacy instruction in a students' primary language for grades one through three. Hence for language arts instruction students from Lena and Marta's classes were regrouped based on language proficiency with Marta teaching language arts in Spanish and Lena in English. Fourth grade was designated as the transition year into the students' second language. This was in accordance to the district's late exit transitional model of bilingual education based on Cummins second language acquisition theory (1981).

          As second year teachers, both Lena and Marta were interested in applying some of the research and practices they had learned during their teacher preparation to their diverse student population. In the current teaching situation the teachers were not satisfied with the school plan to teach language arts in Spanish to Spanish speakers and in English to English speakers and were concerned about the abrupt transition made in 4th grade.

          The teachers were drawing from a number of theories and premises associated with best practices in teaching CLD students. These included the importance of (a) Vygotsky's zone of proximal development and scaffolded instruction (1978), (b) Krashen's comprehensible input (1982), (c) the group in comparison to individualism and competitiveness within the group (Banks & Banks, 1995), (d) teaching that embraces different learning styles and multiple intelligences (Gardner, 1989), and interactive teaching (Bos & Anders, 1992) that incorporated such instructional features as activating prior knowledge, tying new knowledge to old, predicting relationships, teaching conceptual vocabulary, cooperative knowledge sharing, and justifying relationships.

          The teachers wanted to give their students opportunities to work on cognitively demanding tasks in L2 after having previously mastered the same strategies and routines in L1. They questioned Cummins (1981) and Collier's (1989) assertions that the development of cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP) needs to follow the development of basic interpersonal communication skills (BICS), thereby discouraging the academic transition of second language learners who were not ready to perform more cognitively demanding academic tasks. The teachers, relying on Vygotsky's zone of proximal development, thought that when given the proper support in L1, including the use of comprehensible input (Krashen, 1982) and consistent instruction across L1 and L2, students would perform at a cognitively challenging level earlier than the five to seven years Cummins described or the seven to ten years Collier described (Cummins, 1981; Collier, 1989). The teachers looked forward to using scaffolded biliteracy instruction as a means by which CALP was introduced in conjunction with BICS and as a more effective bilingual method of teaching all of their students.

          Both Lena and Marta had a wide variety of students in their classrooms including students who were monolingual Spanish speaking, monolingual English speaking, at various stages of acquiring a second language, gifted/talented, learning disabled, speech and language delayed, and/or hard of hearing. Students with special needs either attended resource programs or were fully included with accommodations depending on individual student needs and teacher sensitivity and skills for accommodating diverse learners.

Tools for Scaffolding Biliteracy Instruction

          In designing their scaffolded instruction to support students as they developed literacy in their second language, Marta and Lena selected the same tools that they had been using in L1 literacy instruction to scaffold their L2 literacy instruction. The teachers chose tools that they felt would enable students to transfer a complete task from L1 to L2 with relative ease, confidence, and fluency. Their unified belief was that tools need to be relevant and useful in learners' L1 to act as vehicles to enable the learners to transfer the knowledge and strategies to L2. In planning, Marta and Lena selected as their major tools story maps and frames (Englert et al., 1995; Reyes & Bos, 1998), personal dictionaries, wordless books, and writing process (Graves, 1983).

          They developed story maps and frames that were highly visual, pairing pictures with text to facilitate second language learning. The assumption was that if students routinely and competently completed story maps or frames in their L1, whether as summaries of stories or as prewriting activities, the students would be ready to transfer that tool to their L2.

          Similarly, the teachers used personal dictionaries which were developed by the students as a means for recording key vocabulary in L1 and L2. For example, if during L2 "free reading" students encountered an unfamiliar word, the word was added to their dictionaries. Following reading, the teacher provided time when students who read in their L2 and as such are novices, interact with students for whom this language was their L1 and hence served as experts. These experts supported and assisted the novices in completing new dictionary entries using both L1 and L2. Hence, personal dictionaries serve as tools to which the students can refer when transferring concepts from L1 to L2.

          Additionally, wordless books provided a means for students to create a text in either L1 or L2 using the pictures to derive the storyline. Working with a peer "expert" in either language further supported a student's literacy development. This promoted interpersonal relations and the kind of constructivism that has been associated with success for CLD learners with and without disabilities (Ruiz, Garcia, & Figueroa, 1996).

          Finally, the writing process (Graves, 1983) was used as an "expert/novice" interactive tool that when routinely practiced in L1 enabled the students to write a coherent product in their L2 earlier than predicted by theory (Collier, 1989; Cummins, 1981). In this biliteracy instruction, students working in their L2 (novices) relied on classmates whose L1 was the novices' L2 for guidance and support. Thus, these classmates served as experts and the roles were reversed when these classmates were writing in their L2. In this context, students functioned as sophisticated language development scaffolds for one another.

Sequence of Instruction

          Lena and Marta formatted their instruction so that students first learned to use the literacy tools and routines in the first language and then applied those same tools and routines to literacy learning in their second language. For two months students in Marta and Lena's classrooms were regrouped according to their primary language as determined by a standardized language assessment given to all students classified as second language learners in the elementary school. When regrouped, Marta taught language arts in Spanish to Spanish speakers and Lena in English to English speakers. After the two months, students were no longer regrouped for language arts instruction. Consequently, both Lena and Marta's classrooms had a mixture of students who were more proficient in English or Spanish. In these mixed language classrooms, the teachers engaged in biliteracy instruction. The students served as experts for each other as they learned to read and write in their second languages, be it English or Spanish.

          Scaffolded instruction in L1. For the first two months, Lena and Marta used scaffolded instruction in the students' L1 to teach the targeted tools and routines. Their scaffolded instruction incorporated other important strategies such as the activating prior knowledge, making information more relevant by tying new knowledge to old, having students predict, confirm, and justify relationships, teaching vocabulary in relation to content, and using cooperative knowledge sharing (Bos & Anders, 1992; Reyes & Bos, 1998).

          The scaffolded instruction was arranged around integrated literature based centers that relied on cooperative groups. The purpose of the centers was to provide an inclusive integrated language arts program that incorporated key tools and routines that would eventually be transferred to biliteracy instruction. The teachers collaborated and co-planned to align their instructional programs so that students would learn the same tools and routines. As demonstrated in Figure 1, each center was designed with stated objectives, planned activities, accommodations for gifted/talented students and students with learning/language disabilities, materials, and a method of evaluation. Both groups of students were provided with print rich environments that included Spanish text sets for Marta's classroom and identical or similar English text sets for Lena's classroom. Hence, students read materials in their L1. The centers were facilitated by adults in the classroom which, in addition to the teacher, might include a teaching assistant, a special education teacher, and a parent or community volunteer.


Literacy Instruction in L1

Language Arts Centers for Third Grade

Lang Arts






  1. patches
  2. hatch
  3. scratch
  4. plain
  5. grain
  6. pain
  7. ground
  8. sounds
  9. pounding
  10. wounded
  11. wound
  12. eagle
  13. lean
  14. terrible
  15. horrible

Ms. Moorehead

Obj: Students will make rainbow words with spelling words at left in order to prepare for a spelling test.

  1. Adult will give guidelines for center to students.
  2. Students will practice spelling words by writing each word three times with a different color crayon each time and then writing the word from memory on the back of the page.
  3. Adult will then test the small group.

Students may not complete all words and will not be penalized.

  • Gifted/Accel.: Students may have time to test each other before the "official" test.
  1. Adult facilitator.
  2. Pencils, paper and crayons.

1. Spelling grade.


Mrs. Perrodin

Obj: As a group, students will complete a reading comprehension activity (see handout) for the story Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain.

  1. Adult introduces the activity, explaining that each person in the center will be using a different color pen so that it is evident that each person participated equally.
  2. Adult reads through explaining each question.
  3. Students complete the activity.

*Adult will be integral part of this center for modeling and reading directions.

  • More advanced students can use their leadership to assist the group.
  1. Copies of the activity.
  2. Adult facilitator.
  3. Extension discussion activity...

1. Adult will complete checklist of desired behaviors:

a) cooperation
b) on task
c) activity participation
d) completion

  • 4pts = A
  • 3pts = B
  • 2pts = C
  • 1pt = D


Mr. Purecell

Obj: Students will be writing descriptive paragraphs about Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain using a paragraph scaffold, on the computer.

  1. Adult turns computers on and sets up center.
  2. Students copy descriptive paragraphs about the Kapiti Plain from last week's work onto the computer.
  3. Students proofread their papers for COPS
  4. Student work is printed.

*Scaffold was provided.

  • Students may opt to veer away from scaffold, writing their paragraphs without one.

1. Descriptive Paragraph frame using work from last week's writing center.

2. Adult facilitator.

3. Additional support materials if necessary.

1. Adult will complete checklist of desired behaviors:

b) on task
c) activity participation
d) completion

  • 4pts= A
  • 3pts= B
  • 2pts= C
  • 1pt = D

listening, art, or creative expression center

Ms. Vasquez

Obj: Students will create texts for picture pop-up books that were created in last week's centers about an animal on the Kapiti Plain.

  1. Adult explains center expectations and passes out materials.
  2. Adult models the process.
  3. Students create stories for pop-up books.
  4. Students share work.

*Adult available if necessary.

  • Students can also write a poem or story to accompany their projects.
  1. Construction paper Different colors.
  2. Glue.
  3. Scissors.
  4. Paper.

1. Presentation to small group checklist:

a) loud voice
b) eye contact
c) full page coverage
d) quality work

  • 4pts= A
  • 3pts= B
  • 2pts= C
  • 1pt= D
Figure 1. Plans for literacy instruction in L1.


          On a typical day in either one of these classrooms, students came in, were seated and immediately turned their attention to the communication boards around the room. The front board listed the agenda for the day along with criteria for evaluating each center, the side board outlined a particular center or mini-lesson, and the back board told students which centers the students would be attending that day. The teacher then greeted the class and reviewed student expectations. Students were chosen randomly to read and clarify the information on the communication boards. To set the stage for the first activity the teacher focused on the literature selection which was the theme for all of the centers. If a mini-lesson was needed based upon the previous day's center work, the teacher presented it in lieu the literature activity. These activities were designed to illicit students' prior knowledge about the selection before the students went to their center. During this time the adults in the room prepared their centers by gathering materials, noting who would be attending their centers, and planning for students' accommodations accordingly. Centers generally lasted from forty-five minutes to an hour and were based on literature that was being explored by the whole class. In the example provided, the story "Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain" was the common literature piece that tied the centers together. Following a mini-lesson or literature discussion, students moved to their centers.

          Lena and Marta were fortunate in that they had several adults who acted as facilitators during language arts. While the reading and writing centers generally required adult scaffolds, the spelling and listening/art/creative expression centers were designed so students could support one another. For example, in the writing center Rob, the special education resource teacher, guided the students during a two week project in which the students used paragraph frames to plan and write a descriptive paragraph about the story "Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain" and then word processed and edited their paragraphs. Throughout the project, Rob scaffolded the instruction depending on student needs whether it was eliciting rich descriptive language from the students, guiding students in developing initial drafts by modeling and assisting as necessary, or the following week modeling an editing strategy (COPS: capitalization, overall organization, punctuation, and spelling) (Schumaker, Nolan, & Deshler, 1985). The writing center would not have been as beneficial to the students without an adult facilitator.

          The same literature was used in the centers for two weeks. This center based format was used in both classrooms for two months using the same instructional plans. After two months of instruction in L1, students were expected to use story maps and paragraph frames to summarize or generate stories, to record new vocabulary in their personal dictionaries, to provide texts for wordless books, and to complete written pieces using the steps in the writing process learned during mini-lessons and practiced in centers. Curriculum-based assessments were given to determine if students could use these tools effectively with minimal support. At this point of instruction, students were expected to demonstrate a solid L1OF that could act as a scaffold from which to develop parallel tools and routines in L2. Some students with learning/language disabilities needed additional scaffolding by pairing with a more proficient peer or providing additional tools such as word processors and spelling/grammar checkers. But the fundamental understanding of the tools and routines were part of these students' learning repertoire. At the end of two months of instruction in L1, students were fluent and appeared to be ready to transfer some of their newly acquired tools and routines to L2.

          Biliteracy instruction. Biliteracy instruction was taught in mixed language groups. In these groups the teachers continued to make use of scaffolded instruction characterized by social interactions between learners/novices and experts that built upon students' background knowledge, home language, and culture. In biliteracy instruction English and Spanish speaking students acquiring L2 were often paired together as supports for one another in the completion of academic tasks. English as a second language (ESL) and Spanish as a second language (SSL) components were integrated into the biliteracy instruction to provide specific opportunities for students to use a peer language expert to complete a task.

          When working in cooperative groups, using the same scaffolds, tools, and routines was particularly helpful in assisting students transfer cognitively based information from L1 to L2. The use of similar tools in L1 and L2 instruction (i.e., story maps, personal dictionaries, wordless books, writing process) provided a smooth transition to biliteracy instruction for the students. Both teachers also used comprehensible input and L1OF as scaffolds. Comprehensible input in students' L2 functioned as a scaffold in that, as stated above, it relied directly on the same tools and routines that were used in previous L1 instruction. In this manner, as students transferred concepts previously taught in L1 to biliteracy instruction, their L1OF functioned as a meaningful scaffold that supported those concepts. This parallel use of scaffolds as tools and routines across L1 and L2 instruction to promote language transfer and was the driving principle used by the teachers to guide their biliteracy instruction. Other scaffolds for L2 acquisition included, teacher directed mini-lessons, buddy reading, and similar language groups.

          Figure 2 outlines the structure for biliteracy instruction in both classrooms. Reading, writing, listening and speaking were primary components of biliteracy instruction. Centers were not used as much because of the frequency of cooperative learning and peer scaffolding involved in each activity. In the example provided, major activities are broken down by days so that students concentrated and had sufficient time for peer interaction and collaboration.

          Before regrouping the students and creating fully bilingual classrooms, some key features had to be present. These included arranging the environment, making language visible, and setting the context. The use of complimentary language pairs, similar language groups, whole group instruction and biliteracy to promote L2 oral language acquisition within an activity (i.e., buddy reading, peer modeling) resulted in authentic interactive biliteracy learning experiences for the students. Allowing students to reach their potential by building their self confidence and esteem within their ZPDs enabled students to support one another within linguistic and academic expert/novice roles.

          Both classrooms were arranged to facilitate the key features mentioned above including contexts in which risk-free language learning could take place. As evident in Figure 2 both languages were used and valued equally without preference given to one over the other. On a typical day of biliteracy instruction, students began their day in ESL and SSL independent activities where scaffolding was provided primarily by students working with language proficient peers. This allowed teachers to observe students interactions, circulate, model, and assist accordingly. Next, students selected texts in their second language from the text sets in both languages that the teachers had previously selected. These books ranged from pre-primer to grade level. While reading their selected L2 text, students noted unfamiliar words on sticky notes to add to their personal dictionaries in the following activity. When working in their dictionaries, students relied heavily on their second language peer experts to scaffold their language learning in L2. The teachers encouraged students to work together and stressed that each one was a language expert and a resource for their classmates during ESL/SSL instruction. Spanish L1 students assisted English L1 students with their dictionary entries from Spanish texts, and vice versa. These pairings often remained in place during the buddy reading and summary activities that followed the personal dictionary activity each day.

          During buddy reading students read to one another in L2, their peer expert providing assistance when necessary. Summaries of the selected texts were then written by students in L1, thereby linking the two languages and demonstrating the level of L2 comprehension students were able to achieve with peer assistance. Each day a literature selection was read by the teacher to set the tone for major activities (see Figure 2). It was read in English or Spanish with discussion, clarification, and vocabulary development provided in the other language to ensure comprehensible input for all learners. Demonstrations and pictures were also used to make learning more comprehensible.

          During these activities, students were given opportunities in the bilingual setting to work in similar language groupings for support and task clarification, especially students with learning/language disabilities. Whole group instruction was given at times when mini-lessons via comprehensible input and L1OF were necessary for additional academic support.

          For example, the wordless books was an activity that both English and Spanish speakers had completed several times during previous L1 instruction. Both groups were aware of the process and were comfortable with the notion of working in cooperative groups to create text for each page of a wordless book to later present to the whole group. Students worked in similar language groups to provide texts for the books. When groups were finished they traded papers and L1 proficient groups peer edited the texts. When time permitted students presented their stories to the class in L2.

          Transferring the knowledge of this routine was useful to students needing to complete the familiar task in L2. In this way the students' L1OF acted as an internalized scaffold that students used as foundations on which to develop biliteracy proficiency. Because the task was familiar and known in L1, when the teachers facilitated the activity using both languages, the input was comprehensible, understandable, and meaningful for the student. Previous student L1 experiences then functioned as powerful scaffolds for future biliteracy learning.

          Similarly other major activities incorporated previously scaffolded information that students had acquired during L1 instruction. ABC books, literature circles (Short, Harste, with Burke, 1995), buddy interviews, and shared writing (see Figure 2) involved students working together in a variety of groupings with familiar tools and scaffolds and with second language experts. During biliteracy instruction, students appeared to feel safe to explore the new language and take risks as they acquired their second language (Krashen, 1982). A "compliments only" classroom policy was established along with other student-generated guidelines for positive interactions.

          The second week for biliteracy instruction moved the students into the writing process as the major activity (see Figure 3). This was not new to the students, as it was yet another tool that they were familiar with from their first language prior instruction. Teachers as facilitators and other adults scaffolded as necessary but allowed students to rely on their language proficient peers for the bulk of their support. If the writing process was not mastered in the week targeted, it was included in the plans for the following week. In subsequent weeks the teachers and students generated ideas for the major activities which included dramas, art projects, poetry studies, self reflections, and journals. The teachers also incorporated curriculum based assessments into the plans once a week to provide evidence for student learning.

          Four key features characterized the biliteracy instruction (a) similar language groups, (b) whole group instruction for mini-lessons; (c) using a language activity to facilitate both L1 and L2 development, and (d) building self-confidence and self-esteem within the ZPD.

  1. Similar language groupings. Similar language groupings provided support for second language learners that were completing a similar task by enabling less able students to rely on more proficient peers to assist them in completing a task. For example, literature circles gave students opportunities to read selections and create story maps for the texts in L2. This was an activity that relied on specific transfer from L1 to L2. Following the completion of their maps, students presented their work to the whole classroom. Even if the group was working on an assignment in their second language (English), students may have discussed, clarified or expressed their disagreements in their first language. In these situations students were more apt to depend upon their L1OF prior knowledge connections to make better sense of their learning. Some of the activities used in same language groupings were wordless texts, literature circles, and ABC books.
  2. Whole group instruction for mini-lessons. Whole group instruction for mini-lessons with the teacher acting as primary scaffold, was vital in the classrooms especially for the students who had been identified as having learning/language disabilities. Mini-lessons provided correct models, clarification of literacy concepts, and anticipatory sets or introductions to topics, grammar lesson, mechanics guidelines, or vocabulary development. Mini-lessons in the classrooms included preview or review in one language with the main content taught in the second language (Chamot & O'Malley, 1994). These lessons were sometimes taught interactively using both languages alternatively, with complete thoughts flowing from one language to the other. At these times students relied heavily on comprehensible input and L1OF building upon prior literacy skill development. These concurrent translated mini-lessons were interactive because many times student experts were called on to repeat a thought or to translate an idea (Peregoy & Boyle, 1997). Question asking and risk-taking by working in one's L2 was strongly encouraged during whole group activities. Overall, mini-lessons brought the whole group together and helped students think about where they were in their biliteracy development.
  3. Using a language activity to facilitate both L1 and L2 development. Buddy reading, buddy interviews, and shared writing were used to give students opportunities to work on L2 interactively. For example, in buddy reading students read a selection in their second language and wrote summaries of the selections in their first language. Scaffolds in this assignment included a proficient speaker of the student's second language to assist in the decoding and comprehension of the text and a paragraph frame in the students first language to complete the summary. Students also read a selection in L1 and wrote summaries or created a story map or web in L2. For buddy interviews a new text scaffold for writing a simple biography was introduced and students were required to ask questions of one another and then to write reports about their partners, to present to the class. Relying on mixed language partner work as well, shared writing in this context had both students writing a collaborative story in either Spanish, English or both languages, alternating sentences. The story did not have to be written following the writing process, but needed illustrations, a beginning, middle and end. The use of more proficient peers as scaffolds was consistently modeled and encouraged by the adult facilitators in the classroom. These activities provided a synthesis of all of the components that depicted a strong literacy development program. In them students were required to read, write, listen, and speak, within the realm of second language acquisition and limited scaffolding by teacher. Story endings in the second language and texts for wordless books were other activities that developed literacy in both languages simultaneously.
  4. Building self-confidence and self-esteem within the ZPD. The limited confidence and low self-esteem frequently evident in students with learning/language disabilities (Smith, 1994) diminished as the classroom focus shifted from literacy development in L1 to literacy in L2. The students became interdependent upon one another when completing tasks in their L2. For example, during biliteracy instruction, English speakers regardless of abilities or disabilities were sought after as language experts by Spanish speakers and vice versa.


          This application of scaffolded instructional sought to explore scaffolding as it applies to second language learners who may or may not have learning disabilities. The instruction relied heavily on scaffolding as a social construct, as external tools such as story maps, and as the students' internal maps on which they build new knowledge. These internal maps served as first language organization frameworks (L1OF) on which students built second language acquisition. This instruction considered scaffolding in it's widely accepted definition as experts providing support for less proficient students. In addition, the students' learned knowledge in their first language was considered a scaffold on which to develop second language acquisition. Observations, teacher interviews, and student work samples suggested that when students were given the opportunity to develop proficiency with a given task or routine in their first language using specific tools, the students performed similar tasks in their second language. Hence, they appeared to transfer the routines and successfully complete the tasks with similar proficiency (Jimenez, Garcia, & Pearson, 1994).

          From observations, interviews, and student work samples, there is also evidence that students benefitted from the experience of working in their second language. Students learning Spanish as their second language as well as students learning English as their second language actively participated in this supported environment and took multiple risks in completing their assignments. Students with learning/language disabilities performed similarly to other learners during the second language activities and usual behavior problems were minimal. The students appeared motivated to speak and read their second language. The overall self-esteem of students appeared to increase as students began to refer to themselves as being bilingual. Academic strengths seemed to become more apparent when instruction returned to first language instructional groups, and students appeared more focused on their language arts goals knowing that in two months they would again be working in biliteracy.

          It appears that the affective benefits of biliteracy instruction were substantial. For example, when a student who was learning disabled and receiving resources services for three years was suddenly sought after by his second language learning peers as an expert in their L2, his learning behaviors became more positive as well as subsequent learning patterns. These manifestations of positive behavior were often noted by Marta and Lena. Mutual respect was noted by the adults in the room as students worked in their zones of proximal development to achieve cognitive tasks in their second languages. Buddy reading took on a new meaning when students reading in their second language relied on a peer proficient in their second language to assist with the decoding and pronunciation of words and vice versa. Integrating time for self-reflection could have further enhanced learning in that students would have the opportunity to reflect on how they felt working in their second language.

          Evidence from this biliteracy instruction suggests that when given scaffolded instruction that is systematically designed to teach and transfer tools and routines from L1 to L2, second language learners can complete cognitive tasks in their second language earlier that would be predicted (Collier, 1989; Cummins, 1981). This provides encouragement for bilingual educators to broaden the scope of instruction for facilitating the develop of proficient bilingual students and points to the importance of research regarding the transferability of tools and routines learned in L1 to L2 (Jimenez, Garcia, & Pearson, 1994). Perhaps students can become proficient in both languages simultaneously.

          The implications for students from diverse backgrounds with learning/language disabilities were also evident. One student whose first language was Spanish but was receiving special education services in English, appeared to flourish when given the opportunity to work in Spanish. While her writing in English was difficult to decipher, she was able to form coherent complete sentences in Spanish. Clearly this student needs to be reevaluated in both English and Spanish. Having the opportunity to work in Spanish and act as a Spanish speaking expert in the classroom allowed Lena to identify the students' strengths.

          Another English speaking student with severe learning disabilities marveled at his ability to assist a Spanish speaker read an English book that he read in the special education resource room. This event appeared to affect this student's interest in school and role in the classroom. During biliteracy instruction, he changed having frequent absences and being a behavior problem to regularly attending and becoming a classroom helper.

          In reflecting on the scaffolded instruction, it is clear that several aspects made the instruction more challenging. Both Marta and Lena commented that planning time was not adequate. They both felt that the parallel scaffolded instruction prior to the biliteracy instruction was crucial as both Spanish and English speaking students needed to learn the same tools and routines to effectively transfer them their second languages. Lena and Marta also found it difficult to locate the same or similar materials in English and Spanish. The teachers found that some students struggled when they were regrouped for the biliteracy instruction. These students took a week or more to adjust to the change in the classroom composition and procedures.

          Scaffolded instruction holds promise for promoting the biliteracy of second language learners. Lena and Marta's classroom instruction supports the importance of external scaffolds such as experts and tools and introduces the possibility of internal scaffolds that can be developed and used to facilitate second language acquisition. In addition, their teaching suggests that scaffolding can effect the time that it may take to acquire cognitive academic language proficiency in the second language. Finally, Lena and Marta's teaching reflects on the power that risk-taking and individual teacher contributions have in authentic educational change.


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