Series ELA for ELL: Scaffolding Understanding for Complex Text: Interacting with Complex Texts: Scaffolding Reading


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • RI:  Reading Standards for Informational Text 6-12
  • 7:  7th Grade
  • 2: 
    Determine two or more central ideas in a text
    and analyze their development over the course
    of the text; provide an objective summary of the

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • RI:  Reading Standards for Informational Text 6-12
  • 7:  7th Grade
  • 4: 
    Determine the meaning of words and phrases
    as they are used in a text, including figurative,
    connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the
    impact of a specific word choice on meaning and

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • RI:  Reading Standards for Informational Text 6-\x80\x9312
  • 8:  8th Grade
  • 2: 
    Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its
    development over the course of the text, including its
    relationship to supporting ideas; provide an objective
    summary of the text.

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)

Interacting with Complex Texts: Scaffolding Reading

Lesson Objective: Prepare learners by building background knowledge
Grades 6-8 / ELA / ELL
ELA.RI.7.2 | ELA.RI.7.4 | ELA.RI.8.2


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. Ms. Park-Friend frames the reading by using focus questions. Why is this important for ELLs?
  2. Students are interacting with the text in a variety of ways. How do all of these interactions support students to write their own persuasive speeches?


  • Private message to Aidanelly Ortiz

Focus questions are essential to help students to read having a point to look for while they are reading. It help students become experts on his/her question and be able to share and talk with his/her peers with confidence. Students used different strategies to comprehend this speech about Barbara. They read small parts with a focus questions in mind, they share out their answers, they heard the speech when the teacher read it aloud, they discuss it orally again using guiding questions, they discussed words or concepts difficult to understand, and they built the speech in the jig-saw activity. By using all of those strategies, students will construct their knowledge and will learn all the steps that are necessary to follow in order to create a speech with powerful and cohesive ideas.

Recommended (1)
  • Private message to Carol Scott

Focused questions are great. These help students to focus on specific aspect of their reading. It forces them to think through and evaluate what they read. This strategy can be used at any level.

Recommended (0)
  • Private message to Elnora Scott

I see the advantage of providing a focus question for students work with.  That question being the focus gives students a target and and other info allows them to develop information aroud the question.

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  • Private message to valerie vallejo-meza
This was very educational for me as me wanting to be a future teacher, and how to see what a real life classroom is like and for preparing students for their future and to play that important role to give them education.
Recommended (1)
  • Private message to Madelaine Wickham
I like that the FOCus Question is used as a way to keep the reader focussed in their thinking as they read.
Recommended (0)


  • Interacting with Complex Texts: Scaffolding Reading Program Transcript

    Park-Friend: So we're gonna start on lesson 4, page 1. Effrain, can you

    Interacting with Complex Texts: Scaffolding Reading Program Transcript

    Park-Friend: So we're gonna start on lesson 4, page 1. Effrain, can you read our goal for today please, over on the board?

    Student: I will build background knowledge on all together now…

    Park-Friend (INT): My name is Emily Park-Friend. I teach seventh grade literacy skills. Almost all of my students are English language learners. Maybe two of them are native English speakers.

    Park-Friend: Yesterday I had you circle in your book your focus question. Correct? We all remember doing this?

    Park-Friend (INT): So today we began with students reading some background information on Barbara Jordan with a focus question in mind.

    Park-Friend: You read this biography of Barbara Jordan on lesson 4, page 1 and focus on just your question and jot down the answers. Later you'll share out what you did.

    Student: Who was Barbara Jordan?

    Student: Barbara Jordan was an American politician and a leader of the civil rights movement.

    Park-Friend (INT): So the purpose of the focus question was to give them something to look for as they read. A lot of times students that are struggling readers or English language learners can look at a text and not know how to begin to attack it. So this gives them a smaller portion. It makes it seem more manageable to them.

    Park-Friend: So this group is ready. You guys can start with the share out. So take turns. Kay? I'm not gonna just give my book over to Valerie and she's gonna copy it. I'm gonna talk to my group. Share my answer. I'm gonna work on making eye contact with people while I do that.

    Park-Friend (INT): When they get together as a group to share out their information, each student is an expert on their question.

    Student: Kay, what we know about her com- commitment to equality and social justice by reading her biography is that she wanted to help people be treated equal.

    Student: Um, she was an important politician and she was the first African American to be elected to the US House of Representatives.

    Student: She was the first African American to go to the white school..

    Student: An all-white college.

    Student: Yeah. Write it down…

    Aida Walqui: Students have to read a small contextual piece explaining about Barbara Jordan and what an extraordinary woman she was at the time in Texas being and African American woman in order to then move into her very powerful speech.

    Emily: So what did we learn about Barbara Jordan? About her life. What did we learn? Yes ma'am.

    Student: That she went to college to an all black… all the people there were black and then the society had a negative attitude because they thought she could not accomplish the… that she could not accomplish what she wanted to be.

    Emily: Be thinking about that ok? And her life and her background as we listen now to the speech, ok? Then they listened to the speech 'All Together Now' I read it to them. Here we go… when I look at race relations today…

    Aida Walqui: As students face the speech for the first time they are listening with a focus. So the teacher gives them some questions that are going to be central for them to understand. So they need to understand. So they need to understand minimally the answer to these questions. And the teacher for the first time reads the text aloud to them.

    Park-Friend: "Today the nation seems to be suffering from compassion fatigue. How do we create"… So they followed along with the actual speech and then they had a partner discussion about what they thought the title meant.

    Park-Friend: So, Luciena, what did you think?

    Student: It's about our nation coming together.

    Park-Friend: Okay. Our nation coming together. What are other thoughts?

    Student: What I think the title means is that no matter what race they are and, they're all human beings, and it doesn't matter the color of their skin. They're gonna be together.

    Park-Friend: What do you think Valerie?

    Student: Like, it's something that the government can't help us with. That we need to do it ourselves.

    Park-Friend: Great. Thank you. And Effrain.

    Student: I think what the title means now is that, like, if we all come up together we can end the racism. Like, do everything.

    Park-Friend: We could make a choice to stop it?

    Park-Friend (INT): Then we began to talk about the next jigsaw activity.

    Park-Friend: I'm gonna give each of you a little section of this speech. Kay? You and your group, you're gonna try to put it back in order. Like a puzzle. Why do you think of the first one? What's the first sentence?

    Student: When I look at race relations today I see the same positive changes have come about.

    Park-Friend: So it sounds like she's starting to talk about today. Kay. Does she say-- Do you guys agree? You think that's the first and that's the last? Okay. Well then we can put that down. Put this here and this here. If I want to think about what comes next, maybe, where should I look in there?

    Student: The last…

    Park-Friend: The last few words. And then see if there's any ideas that connect to something else. So how does that one end?

    Aida Walqui: As they build the text there are two main types of clues that are guiding students. One is students might say for example "oh that piece says 1st and mine says 2nd, so I'm assuming that's what follows logically". So they're looking at formal features of the text to reconstruct it. But more importantly they're really following the argument and they're saying "well if she started this way then the logical next step in the development of her argument is this." And so eventually they reconstruct the whole text and of course they compare it to the text that has not been cut and then there's a general discussion.

    (School bell rings)

    Park-Friend: Please stick your piece of paper in your yellow book, because we'll revisit that tomorrow, okay?

    Aida Walqui: These skills are really important because in lesson five students are going to have to write their own speeches and all this meta knowledge about how you go about constructing first ideas, making them cohere and then text and make it be cohesive are essential to coming up with a text that is both clear and at the same time begins to have power.

    - END -

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School Details

Bruce Randolph School
3955 Steele Street
Denver CO 80205
Population: 824

Data Provided By:



Emily Park-Friend


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