Scaffolding - a Term for Instructional Delivery

Scaffolding for writing.


Scaffolding is a word, like chunking, that describes how instruction is planned and delivered to students receiving special education services. All instruction is built on "prior knowledge" and students with disabilities often come without the same skill set or prior knowledge as their typical peers. A teacher is challenged to find the child's strengths and build on them to teach the important skills that will lead them either to academic or functional success.

Often students with disabilities will not have the skill set their same aged peers have, and will need to have the components scaffolded to help them move on to an age appropriate set of academic skills.  A child who hasn't learned to write a multiple paragraph report may need to start at sentences, move on to a graphic organizer for a paragraph.  Once they can find the information and words they need, they may be ready to learn how to organizer their own paragraph.  Once one, then multiple paragraphs. 

One of my autistic students with little independent language had strong counting skills. We used touch math as a way to teach him addition and subtraction, "scaffolding" on his strength in letter recognition, counting and memory of rote tasks.  He was able to do multiple addition and then subtraction problems without regrouping once he mastered the algorithms.   

Alternate Spellings: Scaffold, Scaffolding, Scaffolded


Example 1 - Math: In order for Mrs. Stanley to help Roger learn the plane figures in geometry, she built on his interest in dot to dots. By repeatedly connecting the lettered vertices of the triangle, rectangle, square, rhombus, and other polygons, Roger was able remember both the names and criteria for each of the plane figures.

Example 2 - Writing: Clarence is good at spelling and likes to write words he had memorized.  

  • His teacher started to use that interest by creating graphic organizers where he could choose words for his sentences.  
  • Next, his teacher finds out Clarence's interests beyond electronic games.  Clarence loves African animals.  The teacher shows Clarence how to search for pictures of favorite animals and download them as jpegs.  Then Clarence learns how to place the pictures in a publishing program and add a caption.
  • Once Clarence has found his favorite animals, the teacher will create a  note book.  Then he will guide Clarence how to do a web search to find facts about the animals on a fact sheet:  What kind of animal? (mammal, fish, bird, reptile, etc.)  What do they eat?  Where are they on the food chain?  A predator or grazer?  
  • After Clarence has collected lots of information on the fact sheets, the teacher will provide a graphic organizer with the topic sentences for each paragraph in a graphic organizer.  Clarence will use the skill he gained from the first level of the scaffold (writing a sentence in a template/graphic organizer) to writing about each animal of interest. 
  • Publish. Clarence drops pictures into the text and creates a book.  Spring for color printing, maybe even binding.