Scaffolding?

I’ve been told that Scaffolding for Scaffolders is an odd name for a language teaching blog site.  And to any of you in the construction industry who may have been looking for building supplies and stumbled upon the site by accident, I apologize.

In light of all that, it seems appropriate to include a post on how scaffolding applies to education and provide some basic examples.

Scaffolding in education refers to support which we can give students such that they are better able to do the task.  The word scaffolding is used because it is assumed that this support can slowly be taken away as the learners develop.

Here are the usual 3 types that I apply to almost every lesson:

  • Break a task down into different stages or components. Instead of explaining the entire project or task in one go and then leaving students to get on with it, we can break it down into stages, check in with students after each stage, and only after checking in we then provide instructions for the next stage.
  • Provide a model. The teacher can provide or actually be a model, but we can also use a stronger student to provide a model, or we can find a model online or in a text to show them before they are tasked with producing similar.
  • Allow thinking time. If the task is to share an opinion or produce a short talk or explanation, students may benefit from think-pair-share in order to build both their confidence and quality of output.  Think-pair-share can go like this: individually, students have 3 minutes to brainstorm/take notes, then in pairs they share ideas, then finally as a whole class or larger group they share ideas.  Less confident or less prepared students will perform much better in the whole class share stage if they are allowed the support of the previous two stages (think-pair).  The simple act of sharing ideas and/or checking answers with the person next to them can be an invaluable scaffold that greatly boosts confidence and quality of work produced.

For some more examples, and to see scaffolding in action, check out this short video:

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