Using TEACHROCK to Scaffold lessons for ENL Students

Stephanie Arnell

It’s the age old essential question: as an educator, how do I provide academically rigorous instruction to meet the needs of English as New Language (ENL) students? One option is through scaffolding. When teachers scaffold lessons, they break down the language into manageable pieces, allowing students to better understand and retain the information provided. When learning is scaffolded, students are constantly building upon prior knowledge by forming associations between their past experiences and new concepts and vocabulary. Additionally, scaffolding presents opportunities for students to be successful before they move into unfamiliar territory. This type of instruction minimizes failure and decreases frustration, especially for students acquiring a new language.

As seen in the table below, scaffolding strategies are best conceptualized as a continuum. Teachers provide the highest amount of instructional support at the beginning, and gradually lower support until the student develops metacognition and has an awareness and understanding of their own thought processes.


TeachRock is the perfect medium to motivate ENL students, and provides the ideal opportunity to establish a link between a student’s own experience and new material. Through the use of historical footage, think-pair-share activities and group collaboration, students’ create personal connections that motivate them to think critically and personally relate to historical events and contemporary issues. TeachRock lessons present structured opportunities for role-play, and visuals that provide academic vocabulary to be introduced and reinforced with ENL students.

For example, in the lesson “Muddy Waters: The New Kid in Town,” students are asked to imagine what emotions might arise when feeling like the “new kid” somewhere. The lesson begins with a quick write activity, which asks students, “Have you ever moved from one town, or school district, to another? If so, can you remember the emotions you felt? If you have never made such a transition, can you remember a time you felt “new” someplace?” This motivational activity allows students to openly share feelings associated with being a “new kid” somewhere, and provides opportunities for reflection and interpersonal connection. After discussing their own experience, students then learn about Muddy Waters, the Great Migration, and how his move away from his home in Mississippi to Chicago allowed him the opportunity to flourish as a musician. By the end of this lesson, students across the classroom will have a deeper understanding of their classmate’s past experience, and hopefully be inspired by the idea that new situations often lead to new opportunities.

While “Muddy Waters: The New Kid in Town,” gives students the opportunity to consider and share their own emotions and past experiences, the lesson “Rock and Roll and the American Dream” allows students to reflect on their own learning process. In this lesson, students attempt to define the idea of the “American Dream” by examining the personas of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. Using the materials from this lesson, educators might consider using Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) to facilitate student understanding and conversation based on their own personal experience. VTS is a very simple activity designed to build students’ background knowledge and develop thinking skills that use detail to enhance understanding. It can also be used as a precursor to analyzing literary passages, because the thinking skills used to examine artwork can be transferred to the written word.

Above is an image of the album cover for Elvis Presley’s 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong. While displaying the image, ask your students: “Please look at the picture silently for a minute and think about what you see. What’s going on in the picture?” After a minute of observation, open up the question to the room, “What do you see in the picture?” When a student offers a qualitative statement, the teacher might ask for more information. For example: “You said, Elvis really likes himself. What makes you say that?” As this process continues, students will develop metacognition skills and gain a deeper understanding of the ways they receive, analyze, and consider content – without once having to read a passage.

As educators, we must make learning central while also encouraging students’ engagement and responsibility. We must respond effectively to students of different needs and backgrounds while promoting tolerance and social cohesion. The TeachRock curriculum provides teachable moments where ENL students will feel valued and included, and creates an environment where the learning process is collaborative. Successful learners generally have a teacher who was a mentor and took a real interest in their aspirations. Scaffolding instruction will guide students to understand who they are, discover what their passions are and will build effective learning strategies as a foundation for lifelong learning.