Introductory Challenge

Unit 10 describes strategies that paraprofessionals and other educators can use to help students improve their reading comprehension by building their vocabulary, their skills of inference, and their ability to use text features, such as headings, glossaries, and indexes. As you work through this unit, imagine using these scaffolding strategies with a student you know—whether the young person is a student you work with or a family member or friend. Challenge yourself to adapt a vocabulary building strategy, a strategy to develop ability to make inferences, or a strategy to develop understanding of text conventions, taking into account that young person’s age and interests.

Pretend that the young person you have in mind is required to read the following eye-witness account of the completion of the first railroad across the United States¹, and the teacher has asked you to plan an appropriate scaffolding activity:

California furnished the Golden Spike. Governor Tuttle of Nevada furnished one of silver. General Stanford . . . presented one of gold, silver, and iron from Arizona. The last tie was of California laurel.

When they came to drive the last spike, Governor Stanford, president of the Central Pacific, took the sledge, and the first time he struck he missed the spike and hit the rail.

What a howl went up! Irish, Chinese, Mexicans, and everybody yelled with delight. ‘He missed it. Yee.’ The engineers blew the whistles and rang their bells. Then Stanford tried it again and tapped the spike and the telegraph operators had fixed their instruments so that the tap was reported in all the offices east and west, and set bells to tapping in hundreds of towns and cities… Then Vice President T. C. Durant of the Union Pacific took up the sledge and he missed the spike the first time. Then everybody slapped everybody else again and yelled, ‘He missed it too, yow!’

It was a great occasion, everyone carried off souvenirs and there are enough splinters of the last tie in museums to make a good bonfire.

¹Eye-witness account retrieved from