Scaffolding is a method of teaching that works for virtually any subject. Teachers may choose to use scaffolding for all, or only some, of their lessons. Scaffolding is starting kids out in the shallow end of the pool rather than throwing them into the deep end with no life preserver; regardless of their ability to swim.
Lev Vygotsky is the father of this concept and he coined the term ‘ZPD, or Zone of Proximal Development.’ He said that kids are moved to the next level of knowledge or ability by support from those that know, or are capable of, more. We often see visuals of a ladder depicting this; lifting us up a bit beyond what we can reach on our own.
Think about the student’s perspective in the classroom. If you are given an assignment with no examples, no modeling, and no practice, how do you feel? Very likely anxious and frustrated. If each step is clearly explained and laid out for you and you get plenty of practice with support, you will feel much calmer. When we feel anxious our brains are less receptive to learning (a concept referred to as the ‘affective filter.’) Keeping the affective filter low makes it so that students are calm and receptive to learning. Scaffolding is a key strategy for keeping the affective filter low.
Another reason scaffolding is so important is that it is engaging. Lessons that utilize scaffolding are intrinsically more interesting than those that do not. They build on what students already know and encourages them to learn more.
Pre Teach Vocabulary: read and find problematic vocabulary words and discuss them before student reading.
Picture Walk: For younger students, walk through the book looking only at the pictures to ‘tell’ the story based on the pictures.
Predictions: Based on the title/cover children make predictions. They also stop at points along the way and tell what will happen next.
Strategize: Teach strategies that students can use to self-monitor their comprehension or to use when they are stuck on a word.
Scaffolding is a vital part of teaching that should be woven inextricably throughout your instruction. Try a few of these scaffolding strategies and watch your students’ abilities take off.
By: Amy Curletto
Amy has been teaching for 12 years in grades K-2. She has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and also has endorsements in reading and ESL. Besides education, her other passion is writing and she has always dreamed of being a writer. She lives in Utah with her husband, her 3 daughters, and her miniature schnauzer. She enjoys reading, knitting, and camping.
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.
Dr. James Stanfield, Ed.D.