Scaffolding and Differentiation in Twig Science

Scaffolding and Differentiation in Twig Science

Twig Science provides EL, SEL, and special needs supports, as well as Below-level and Honors/Above-level supports, via scaffolding sidebars within lessons (print and digital).

These supports provide instruction to teachers on how to scaffold and amend the activities to support students of varying backgrounds and abilities. This could range from sentence or writing frames to additional handouts and differentiated texts, or more challenging or accessible configurations of the task (e.g., reading one/two short articles in pairs could be turned into a synthesis of multiple sources task for Honors students).

English Learners

EL sidebars provide strategies for teachers to support ELs of all proficiency levels, with specific guidance on how to tailor the lesson to accommodate ELs. Strategies include:

Cloze Frames

Differentiated cloze sentence and paragraph frames.

Language Comprehension Strategies 

Setting viewing, listening, and reading purposes
Displaying word charts, discussion questions, and so on in advance.
Vocabulary strategies using text, video, visuals, Spanish–English cognates, and the academic word wall
Listening to an audio recording of the text in addition to reading it

Language Production Strategies

Prompt questions aimed at the teacher to engage students
Suggested discussion questions for ELs to use in group work
Scaffolds for class presentations and written work

Close Reading Strategies

Previewing the text in a small group before the activity
Picture walks
Reading the text with a group, partner, or individually, depending on students’ proficiency level 

Some EL sidebars offer guidance for all EL students, while others offer differentiated guidance for varying language proficiencies, as indicated by bolded subheads. We use three differentiated levels (proficiency levels in parentheses are determined by the ELD standards):

Substantial Support (Emerging Proficiency) 

  • For beginners and early intermediate learners, this level addresses students who are learning to use English for immediate needs and who are beginning to understand and use academic vocabulary.

Moderate Support (Expanding Proficiency) 

  • For intermediate learners, this level addresses students who are developing a richer vocabulary and more sophisticated linguistic structures.

Light Support (Bridging Proficiency)

  • For advanced learners, this level addresses students who are applying a range of high-level English language comprehension and production skills.

Monitoring English Language Proficiency

Monitoring English Language Proficiency (MELP) sidebars complement EL sidebars, and provide the teacher with point-of-use instruction to assess ELs’ progress in their English language proficiency. They appear alongside close reading activities, and always refer to an article.

MELP sidebars are divided into four bolded standard subheads and are introduced by standard text (see Misc Text Bank).

Writing Domain

  • This section includes writing tasks specific to the TB text, e.g., having ELs write a description of how an illustration relates to the text.

Reading Domain

  • This section includes reading tasks specific to the TB text, e.g., having ELs reread a section and then share what they learned.

Speaking Domain

  • This section prompts the teacher to collect academic vocabulary as students discuss the TB text.

Listening Domain

  • This section includes listening tasks specific to the TB text, e.g., reading aloud a section and then asking ELs comprehension questions.

Standard English Learners

SEL sidebars provide point-of-use strategies for helping students develop their command of oral and written Standard English, a component of ELD standards. Standard English is a term for conventional, grammatically-accepted English, in contrast with home dialects or Community English. In California, SELs include students of African American, Chicano, Pacific Islander, and Native American heritage.

These sidebars do not address the specific home dialects of students, but instead encourage all students to use appropriate academic language in a formal register. 

Strategies include:

  • Contrastive analysis, e.g., asking students to deliver the same presentation to two distinct groups, such as a group of peers and a group of teachers)
  • Recasting, e.g., recasting what students say using Standard English and/or academic vocabulary
  • Support with pronunciation, e.g., chorus repeats
  • Grammatical scaffolding

Special Needs Support

These sidebars offer point-of-use strategies for tailoring activities and learning points to accommodate special needs students of all backgrounds and abilities.

Conceptual Processing
These sidebars address students who struggle to understand and distinguish between concepts (e.g., how a subclimate differs from a climate, or what a cell is). 

Supports include: asking focused questions before replaying a video; providing focused annotation strategies to facilitate reading comprehension; and using diagrams, visual cues, or graphic organizers to help students process abstract information.

Executive Functioning
These sidebars address students who struggle with executive tasks (e.g., planning, organization, focus, and patience). 

Supports include: offering focused annotation or text-chunking strategies; using lists, checklists, or graphic organizers to facilitate focus and comprehension; and displaying discussion questions to facilitate focus and engagement.

  • Expressive and Receptive Language
    • These sidebars address students who struggle with communication (verbal or textual).
    • Supports include: close reading strategies like whisper reading, echo reading, and reading aloud with a partner; displaying key terms, read-alouds, or other text to provide students with visual cues; and pairing students with peers who can assist them with language tasks.
  • Fine Motor Skills
    • These sidebars address students who struggle with fine motor skills (e.g., manipulating tools).
    • Supports include: using computers or other digital tools rather than manual ones; giving students alternate tasks if an activity is too difficult for them; and pairing students with a peer to whom they can dictate investigation steps during hands-on activities.
  • Memory
    • These sidebars address students who struggle with information recall.
    • Supports include: prompting students to review notes in their TBs; recording key information on the board for students to follow; and playing videos more than once, often with a viewing purpose.
  • Physical Disability
    • These sidebars address students with a range of physical disabilities (e.g., hearing impairments, mobility issues). 
    • Supports include: ensuring ample physical space to conduct hands-on activities or gallery walks; tailoring hands-on activities for students with gross motor skills; and consulting the accommodations set forth in the students’ Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
  • Social-Emotional Functioning
    • These sidebars address students who need additional social-emotional support in the classroom.
    • Supports include: accommodating students who are overwhelmed by too much noise or too little personal space; providing focused guidance for more open-ended activities; and allowing students to record an oral presentation, rather than reciting it from memory before the class.
  • Strengths-Based Approach
    • These sidebars address all special needs students. They serve to highlight the strengths of special needs students by encouraging them to share these strengths with the class. 
    • Supports include: having artistic students share their sketches to communicate their ideas in a discussion; encouraging students with hearing impairments who are fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) to share a message through signing; and asking students with sensory impairments to share how they experience natural phenomena (e.g., rain).
  • Visual-Spatial Processing
    • These sidebars address students who struggle with processing visual information.
    • Supports include: pairing students with a peer who can help them with visually complex tasks such as graphing; providing students with a piece of paper to use as a reading guide, in order to screen out competing visual information; and using color-coding, labeling, and other strategies to help students visually organize information.

Below-Level Support

Below-Level Support sidebars are modifications to the task to support students lacking the prior DCIs or SEP/CCCs needed to access the task. They call back to the Grade 3-5 outcomes and expectations.

Below-Level support sidebars can vary dramatically in scope, and may include:

  • Writing and other concept frames, additional prompts that improve access to the lesson content (e.g. worksheet that structures ‘cause & effect’ thinking)
  • Restructuring of tasks to simplify the requirements
  • Intervention films from Twig Science Tools and Twig Science Glossary


Honors sidebars are additional instructional opportunities to challenge honors students. 

Honors sidebars can vary dramatically in scope, and may include:

  • Additional variables in a hands-on investigation, and/or running additional tests
  • Additional drawing or writing prompts that build on the lesson content
  • Restructuring of tasks to provide additional challenge (e.g. through additional texts and synthesis)
  • Providing another ‘harder’ question they can do (Challenge question)
  • Stretch films from Twig Secondary

Honors Extensions

Extension activities are used to provide opportunities for extended tasks aimed at honors and GATE students. These contain standard activity instructions. For example, they may be an additional data analysis piece which extends the results of a completed investigation, or DOK4-style investigation which builds on the work of a series of lessons. They may occur every 5-10 lessons. 

If you’d like to find out more about what we can do for you, feel free to get in touch at

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