Scaffolding Instruction Strategies

The technique helps give students a solid foundation of various skills

Teacher looking at kids drawing in schoolclass
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Scaffolding describes how instruction is planned and delivered to students receiving special education services. Scaffolding instruction refers to specialized teaching strategies geared toward supporting learning when students are first introduced to a new subject. Scaffolding gives students a context, motivation, or foundation from which to understand the new information that will be introduced during the coming lesson.

Scaffolding techniques should be considered fundamental to good, solid teaching for all students, not just those with learning disabilities or second language learners. In order for learning to progress, scaffolds should be gradually removed as instruction continues so that students will eventually be able to demonstrate comprehension independently.

Scaffolding Strategies

Scaffolding instruction includes a wide variety of strategies, including:

  • Activating prior knowledge. This strategy reminds of what they have already learned, often through brief reviews. This helps reduce students' anxiety as they move on to new subjects.
  • Offering a motivational context to pique student interest or curiosity in the subject at hand
  • Breaking a complex task into easier, more "doable" steps to facilitate student achievement
  • Showing students an example of the desired outcome before they complete the task
  • Modeling the thought process for students through "think aloud" talk
  • Offering hints or partial solutions to problems
  • Using verbal cues to prompt student answers
  • Teaching students chants or mnemonic devices to ease memorization of key facts or procedures
  • Facilitating student engagement and participation
  • Displaying a historical timeline to offer a context for learning
  • Using graphic organizers (visual aids) to offer a visual framework for assimilating new information
  • Teaching key vocabulary terms before reading
  • Guiding the students in making predictions for what they expect will occur in a story, experiment, or other course of action
  • Asking questions while reading to encourage deeper investigation of concepts
  • Suggesting possible strategies for the students to use during independent practice
  • Modeling an activity for the students before they are asked to complete the same or similar activity
  • Asking students to contribute their own experiences that relate to the subject at hand

Implementing Scaffolding Strategies

A deeper look shows how you can implement a few of the strategies mentioned above into your classroom.

Prior knowledge: A great scaffolding technique is to ask students to share their own personal experiences or knowledge about the topic that they are learning about. Have them try and relate the topic in one way or another to their own lives.

Visual aids: Visual aids like graphic organizers, charts and photographs all serve as wonderful scaffolding tools because they visually represent what the students are learning about. They are essentially the training wheels students use until they can really get a firm grasp on the information.

Pre Teach vocabulary: It is essential to preteach any new vocabulary before moving on to a new subject. Simply introduce the new words through a photo or picture and put each word into context and relate it to something that students already know. Doing so will keep students interested and ready to tackle the next learning objective.

Edited By: Janelle Cox