Scaffolding is an educational buzzword that gets a lot of attention, and for good reason. If students are to be pushed to achieve and stretched to learn something new, they need to have supports in place to help them meet those goals. Having solid scaffolding strategies also allows educators the most flexibility in their curriculum implementation. With some go-to scaffolding activities, individual lesson plans and classroom discussions can be adapted quickly and easily to address a wide array of learner needs, allowing a single activity to be transformed into a dynamic exercise that meets learners where they are while meeting foundational curriculum standards.
Here are some scaffolding techniques that every teacher should have in the toolbox to make lessons adaptable and flexible for every learner.
You can either model the activity yourself or, even better, let students model for each other. In the latter option, students who learn best by doing get the opportunity for hands-on practice while students who may need some more time to digest the information get to see it demonstrated before having to tackle it directly.
A lot of scaffolding is about making invisible processes visible. One of the best ways to do this is to think aloud. When you are working through a complex idea, be sure to explain how you get from one point to the next. Have students practice thinking aloud as well. This works especially well when they are paired up for discussion.
Students often struggle to take meaningful notes and end up spending more energy in getting the notes to “look right” rather than actively engaging with the material. Creating guided notes can help teach good note taking habits and provide students with frameworks for discussion and writing prompts while still requiring their own participation in completing the documents.
Scaffolding isn’t just about what the students do with the information. It is also about how the information is presented in the first place. Whenever possible, present new information in multiple forms. If you typically lecture, provide a link to video as well. If you usually have students work through discussion, provide a visual aid. The more delivery methods you can provide, the better chance you have of producing that “ah-ha” moment in each learner.
Often, one of the barriers to comprehension lies in academic vocabulary. If you take the time to identify and define vocabulary before assigned reading or a more thorough discussion of the material, you will give students familiar landmarks to use when they begin navigating the fuller picture on their own. Vocabulary activities can be elaborate lessons of their own, or they can simply be taking a few minutes to define terms at the end of a class before the next lessons begins.
All of these scaffolding lessons are multidisciplinary and adaptable for various age groups. You can bring them into just about any classroom in order to make sure that learners are getting the support they need to reach their full potential.