Back to Inquiry Page Home Join in Inquiry Page Log in as Inquiry Page MemberInquiry Page short menu bar Inquiry Unit banner Ask Investigate Reflect Discuss CreateInquiry Cycle
  Search other Inquiry UnitsAdd an Inquiry UnitDelete this Inquiry UnitEdit this Inquiry UnitSpin off this Inquiry Unit

How can scaffolds for learning be provided? What is Activity Theory?

Chip Bruce ( (ready to use)

Subject Areas

Grade Levels
Kinder, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, Vocational, Undergraduate, Continuing

Unit Keywords
learning, scaffolding, inquiry, education, teaching, support

Open Directory Category

Rationale of the Unit
Examining how to provide support for student-directed investigations and how teachers create and enact inquiry projects in their classrooms.

  INVESTIGATE Go to Topgo to top
Background and Resources
Beyer, B. K. (1971). Inquiry in the social studies classroom: A strategy for teaching. Columbus, OH: Charles E. Merrill.

Vygotsky, Lev (1930). Mind in society.. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


Biology Guided Learning Environment
BGuILE is designed for high school biology courses. It includes a computer-based learning environment and associated classroom activities in which students conduct authentic scientific investigations.,


Wells, Gordon (1997, November). Dialogic inquiry in education: Building on the legacy of Vygotsky. Invited presentation at the Annual Conference of the National Council of Teachers of English, Detroit.,

Jerald Zacharias, one of the leaders in the science education reform of the 60s and 70s, used to hand out a card with a list of "heuristic ploys" for thinking.

What is Activity Theory?

Video interview with Yrjo Engestrom

Victor Kaptelinin & Bonnie A. Nardi: Activity Theory: Basic Concepts and Applications

  CREATE Go to Topgo to top
Activities and Open-ended problems
Vygotsky's "forbidden colors" game
"Early Sign Operations in Children

"The following experiments, conducted under A. N. Leontiev in our laboratories, demonstrate with particular clarity the role of signs in voluntary attention and memory.

"Children were asked to play a game in which they were to answer a set of questions without using certain words in their answers. As a rule each child was presented three or four tasks differing in the constraints placed upon answers and the kinds of potential stimulus aids the child could use. In each task the child was asked eighteen questions, seven of which had to do with color (for example, “What color is ... ?”). The child was asked to answer each question promptly using a single word. The initial task was conducted in exactly this fashion. With the second task, we began to introduce additional rules that the child had to follow in order to succeed. For example, there were two color names the child was forbidden to use, and no color name could be used twice. The third task had the same rules as the second, but the child was given nine colored cards as aids to playing the game (“these cards can help you to win”). The fourth task was like the third and was used in cases where the child either failed to use the color cards or began to do so only late in the third task. Before and after each task we asked the child questions to determine if she remembered and understood the instructions.

"A set of questions for a typical task is the following (in this case green and yellow are the forbidden colors): (1) Have you a playmate? (2) What color is your shirt? (3) Did you ever go in a train? (4) What color are the railway-carriages? (5) Do you want to be big? (6) Were you ever at the theater? (7) Do you like to play in the room? (8) What color is the floor? (9) And the walls? (10) Can you write? (11) Have you seen lilac? (12) What color is lilac? (13) Do you like sweet things? (14) Were you ever in the country? (15) What colors can leaves be? (16) Can you swim? (17) What is your favorite color? (18) What does one do with a pencil?

"For the third and fourth tasks the following color cards were provided as aids: black, white, red, blue, yellow, green, lilac, brown, and gray."

The game can illustrate processes of both mediation and internalization. For adults it may work best to play the game twice. The first time, ask a series of questions with a complicated protocol, such as "use brown at least once, red twice, other colors at most once each." Then a second time, allow the player to use colored cards or even create their own symbols.

  DISCUSS Go to Topgo to top
Dialogues, Discussions, and Presentations
Discuss how the activity illustrates (or not) basic principles of activity theory, such as Hierarchical structure of activity, Object-orientedness, Internalization/externalization, Mediation, and

  If you want to add your comments on this Unit, please login first.

Search other Inquiry UnitsAdd an Inquiry UnitDelete this Inquiry UnitEdit this Inquiry UnitSpin off this Inquiry Unit
Questions or comments? Contact us External link
Copyright 1998-2010, Inquiry Page Version 1.35
594,184 visitors between November 4, 2001 and October 27, 2010 when the website was archived.