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Teaching effectively is not an easy task; teachers are mandated by their respective curricula to achieve certain outcomes, but how those outcomes are achieved is up to the teachers. It is difficult for teachers to organize the subject matter in a comprehensible way which would allow the students to be able to understand and work with it. The technique of scaffolding provides a rational and clear approach to organizing the course material. This section describes what scaffolding is and how it can be used in day-to-day activities as well as in larger-scale planning.
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What is scaffolding?

Scaffolding is the teaching technique that involves providing students with the supports needed to complete a task or facilitate their learning of new concepts. Some students need more scaffolding than others, but those who don’t need the supports do not need to use them.  As the students develop and their abilities in a particular area improve, the supports related to that area can be gradually removed. Tasks and activities can be broken down into achievable chunks for the students so they are able to gain confidence in their abilities without feeling too much stress or anxiety.

Scaffolding information provides an ideal opportunity to use the students' prior knowledge of that area. This prior knowledge should be used to support for the new material. Ideally the new information should be placed at a level just above the knowledge the students already possess, as proposed in Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development. Don’t forget, the purpose of scaffolding is to promote student success! 

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Watch the video below. How does this teacher use scaffolding to structure the activity she is describing? What are some other ways teachers can scaffold activities?


What are some tips for day-to-day scaffolding?

  • Provide clear directions to minimize student confusion
  • Clarify the purpose of tasks and assignments so students are aware of why they are expected to be completed by them; involve students in their own learning process!
  • Be clear about assessments so students can complete their tasks as successfully as possible
  • Point students to good sources so they can supplement their learning
  • Reduce uncertainty, surprise, disappointment by being clear about as much as possible and providing the students with as much help as they need
  • Use visuals and graphic organizers to help clarify the instructions and expectations
  • Use mnemonic devices to help students remember key concepts
  • Provide examples of completed tasks to clarify expectations and steps needed
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How can scaffolding be included in planning?

  • Lesson Planning: When lesson planning, a good way to include scaffolding is to start a class with a review activity; the students can be reminded of the supports already in place, and the teacher can evaluate what other supports are necessary. Scaffolding lesson plans is best achieved when several lessons are planned at once, so there is a gradual increase in the level of difficulty of the activities not only in individual lessons, but in the whole lesson sequence. Creating a unit plan is a good way to facilitate this progression.
  • Unit Planning: When planning units, a good way to incorporate scaffolding is to use the Planning Backwards model. This way, the end goal is determined and it is easier to plan what steps are needed for students to reach that goal. Planning the activities and steps all at once helps to ensure that students aren’t asked the complete an activity they aren’t prepared for; it also helps the teacher realize how supports are to be provided for each activity and how they can gradually be removed by the end of the unit.
  • Program Planning: When planning a three year program, the best way to incorporate scaffolding is to know what each year’s objectives are. As the objectives change from year to year, knowing how they change will facilitate the planning of appropriate scaffolding. It is important to be flexible in program planning and to be willing to make necessary changes, but having the program plan in place will help ensure that the scaffolding is appropriate and incorporated into the program.
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Scaffolding and Sequencing http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/webdesign/Scaffolding/index.html

Scaffolding Instruction Strategies
http://k6educators.about.com/od/helpfornewteachers/a/scaffoldingtech.htm )

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Copyright © Olenka Bilash May 2009 ~ Last Modified January 2011