Vygotsky’s theories include many aspects that could translate easily to the classroom. The main one I can think of as being useful is his Zone of Proximal Development. The zone of proximal development, according to Pressley and McCormick (2007), is the space between the most challenging task a child can perform on their own and the most challenging task they can perform with help. This is important in a school because we can “scaffold” students’ learning in order to help them do more than they could on their own, gradually giving less and less support, until they can do it independently.
An assignment I have been working on for my students is a Think Aloud. A Think Aloud is when you model strategies for students as you read, allowing them to understand the though process surrounding the strategy – making my private speech vocalized. While the text may be too difficult for some students, hearing how someone else approaches the text can help students better understand the strategy – like an apprenticeship when the understudy watches the professional. After modeling, the teacher coaches the student, reminding them to “talk to the text,” in order to remind them of the strategies they can use. After time, the strategy becomes a skill and the student is able to tackle the previously-difficult texts on their own.
I have had many assignments in which I’ve had to work with other students. At times, working with partners was simple because we “were on the same page.” I believe this derives from coming from a similar background and being on the same cognitive understanding of the topic and assignment at hand. There have also been times when it was difficult. This might have stemmed from differing backgrounds, differing opinions on how something should be done, or simply a difference in how we communicate causing friction. It is important for students to learn to work with others, since they will be doing so their entire lives, regardless of if they can learn to work with someone else or not.
Pressley, M. & McCormick, C. B. (2007). Child and adolescent development for educators. New York, NY: Guilford Press.