We often refer to scaffolding to create effective and efficient lessons. Let’s take a look at just what we mean by scaffolding and how you can incorporate it into the classroom.
What is Scaffolding in Teaching?
Scaffolding in education means moving students towards greater understanding through a variety of instructional techniques.
These techniques are gradually removed as students develop greater independence in the learning process.
Scaffolding supports students who don’t yet have the resources and skills they need to complete the task independently.
Children are dependent on adults’ thinking to acquire new knowledge. Think of scaffolding that supports the structure of a building. The supports are gradually removed when the work is complete.
The structured interaction between a child and an adult can similarly support children of all ages, regardless of what topic they are learning.
Scaffolding Techniques List
So how can we implement this into the classroom? There are a number of ways to implement this. I will give you explanations and examples of each of the strategies below.
Tap into Background Knowledge
See what the students already know and try to form ideas that will support whatever you’re going to talk about next. This prepares the students for the task at hand. Yes, this is a standard teaching method and also considered a scaffolding technique!
You can also use their own experiences and see if you can find connections to their own lives somehow. If they can relate new concepts and ideas to their own lives, they have a greater chance of understanding them.
Modeling is a way of demonstrating to the student what you mean. Showing the student how to do it can give them the confidence to do it themselves. For more information on modeling, check out my Tips: How to Be a Good English Teacher here.
Other Examples of Modelling Include:
Getting a smaller group to do it first and show the others how to do it
Show the outcome of the product before they do it, for example, you can show them the criteria or rubric, that you will be using to mark them at the end. They can make sure they score highly on each.
Another scaffolding technique to consider is ‘guided practice.’ The teacher could do a question for the students first, then do the next question together in groups or together with the teacher, and finally, the students try it themselves.
Prompts give the students a bit of information to step them in the right direction.
For example, the teacher could provide visual support, step-by-step directions, or a choice of answers.
This gives the student more focused support and narrows down their options.
Hints could involve anything from verbal gestures to pictures or oral information. A hint will keep the students guessing and help them produce the right answer.
Clues and suggestions like this does not provide the entire answer. An example of this is cooperative writing, where students take turns writing sentences to form a paragraph.
Describe Concepts in Different Ways
Maybe the students won’t understand the first time, but you can provide multiple explanations or questions to help the student grasp the concept more firmly.
You could use metaphors, analogies, or real-world examples. You could also produce a simplified definition that makes more sense to them.
Think aloud involves verbalizing the teacher’s thinking process to help students to understand and choose. Teachers can do this at points in the text they think the students would find confusing, such as new vocabulary or an unusual sentence structure.
After the teacher has modeled the think-aloud strategy, the teacher can encourage the student to do it, by giving them sentences that support their thinking-aloud.
Read Aloud or Text to Speech
If students are finding it difficult to read, you can certainly ease the difficulty by reading aloud or providing text to speech.
This is ideal for beginner learners in English language teaching, as it reduces the strain on the student and they can repeat what was said with correct tone and enunciation.
This provides the students with clear strategies to show them how to learn. This helps them to process, remember and express new information.
They are two types of strategies: cognitive and metacognitive.
Cognitive strategies allow students to gain, process and express new information by using tools such as note-taking, lists and mnemonics.
Metacognitive strategies allow students to think about their own thinking. It helps them understand how they learn. Self-assessments and self-regulation are metacognitive strategies.
Use a Graphic Organiser
A graphic organizer, such as a mind map or story map, organizes information in a way that is easier for students to remember. By showing text and visuals, graphic organizers can show the connection between concepts and works as a wonderful memory tool.
Introduce new words before sending students into the deep end. Introduce new words in photos or context that convey their meaning.
Give time for discussion of the new words and let the students come up with their own definition. No need for a dictionary, unless they want to compare their definition afterward.
We could ask scaffolding questions to make sure students understand what they learn and challenge them.
This empowers the students to think about what they have learned and use their new knowledge to construct ideas.
For example, you could ask questions like:
- How are these similar/different?
- What would you do?
- Can you see a possible solution to…?
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How Can I Implement Scaffolding Effectively?
Scaffolding techniques can easily go wrong, if not implemented correctly. Here are some of the crucial components you need to consider before implementing scaffolding techniques in the classroom.
Learning Task Selection
For scaffolding to be effective, the teachers should select a learning task that will give the students the skills they need to master. This task shouldn’t be too difficult or too easy for the learner and should keep the students involved.
The teacher should anticipate errors and guide the learner in the right direction. This puts the students on the right path.
This theory is based on the view that we can learn more in the presence of a knowledgeable person.
The zone of proximal development is the difference between what a student knows without help and what they can achieve with guidance from a skilled person.
It’s critical to know the student’s current level of knowledge, so the teacher can teach them in their zone of proximinal development.
Scaffolding Technique Application
The teacher should apply the scaffolding technique in the most suitable way for the learners. Teachers may want to organize scaffolding in a simple way or engage in a more dynamic approach.
Teachers may need to manage the response of the students through encouragement. Students may be frustrated or lose interest in tasks and need some emotional support to continue the task.
The Importance of Scaffolding in Education
Scaffolding provides a number of benefits. It helps the students become problem solvers, and motivates them to get the work done. It gives students the tools and resources they need to develop their skills and accomplish the task. It promotes the students own cognitive, affective and psychomotor learning skills and knowledge
Scaffolding can take a longer time to teach but provides a much more rewarding learning experience for students.
Considering the range of benefits from scaffolding, we should consider using it often in the classroom.
Above we described some of the many ways to use scaffolding techniques in the classroom. As an ESL teacher, I use many of them on a daily basis in the online classroom. If you are doing an ESL demo interview, be sure to use scaffolding techniques to promote that greater understanding.
Which techniques do you implement? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.
What is Scaffolding According to Vygotsky?
Vygotsky provided the theoretical basis for scaffolding practice with his Zone of Proximal Development theory (ZPD). Scaffolding was later introduced by James Bruner and others across various educational contexts.
What is the Main Purpose of Scaffolding?
The main purpose of scaffolding is to reduce student intimidation and frustration when completing a difficult task. It facilitates learning and helps the learners focus on their specific goals.
What is ZPD?
ZPD or Zone of Practical Development is what the student can learn with some guidance. The teacher provides guidance to take the student to where they need to be.
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Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.