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Scaffolding learning of language structures with visual‐syntactic text formatting


The current study examines the effects of digital scaffolding on the English literacy of fourth- and sixth-grade students. A total of 1085 native English-speaking and language minority students from 25 treatment classes and 20 control classes across three school districts participated in this study for one school year. Treatment students read their English language arts and social studies text in visual-syntactic text format (VSTF) on their laptops and control students read the regular block format of the textbook either on their laptops or in print. Observations and interviews revealed that VSTF reading facilitated instruction processes and student learning in reading activities. The results of California Standard Tests (CST) before and after the treatment revealed that sixth-graders who received syntactic scaffolding outperformed control students on the composite CST score. In particular, reading in VSTF benefited the treatment students in three CST sub-categories: word analysis, written conventions and writing strategies. This study suggests that future research should investigate instructional strategies that support reading and writing development of adolescents, including at-risk students, using syntactic scaffolding.

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