Scaffolding instruction means using temporary supports to move students along the path of learning. Scaffolds, as the metaphor suggests, are removed over time as students become more proficient.
Teachers provide scaffolding to help students take the next step in their learning that’s just beyond what they can do on their own—what Lev Vygotsky called the zone of proximal development.
For example, a teacher might provide concrete manipulatives for students to use as they tackle a complex math task, share an exemplar response before a writing exercise, or discuss a text before students read it to familiarize them with its vocabulary and context.
With scaffolding, teachers make explicit connections between what students already know and new learning.
While scaffolding is a core teaching strategy for all students, skillful scaffolding is particularly important for students with unfinished learning. It can enable them to engage successfully with grade-level content, which is essential for providing equitable outcomes for all students.
Learn more about how to scaffold your instruction to support your students:
- The harsh reality for many teachers is that students may be several years behind grade-level. Here’s a strategy to engage students in grade-level math and fill gaps simultaneously.
- Asking thoughtfully sequenced, scaffolded text-dependent questions to help students take steps to deepen their understanding of a text can be a powerful instructional technique.
- Analyzing data and student work in math and ELA can help you uncover where students are struggling and identify the scaffolds, or supports, they need to meet learning goals.