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5 Scaffolding Teaching Strategies to Try Today

Janelle Cox

Do you find that you forgo scaffolding a lesson because it seems like a lot more work for you to do? Teachers already have a lot on their plates, so I can see that scaffolding may not be at the top of their list, but if you don’t scaffold a lesson, then it’s like teaching a child to ride their bike without the training wheels on. It’s essential that we teachers don’t just say “I would like you to write a three-page essay.” We have to give our students the tools to know what to do and how to write that essay.

Scaffolding is one of the first teaching strategies that you do with students. It’s providing students with a tool for better understanding. If you were beginning a new chapter, you might read key vocabulary words, preview the chapter, or read a few chunks of the first chapter together as the class. Scaffolding is making sure students have a firm grasp of the information that they are about to learn by giving them the tools to succeed.

Here are 5 scaffolding teaching strategies that you can try out in your classroom today. Give them a try and let us know what you think.

1. Modeling Teaching Strategies

Remember when you were a child in kindergarten class and you would have show and tell? I bet you can still remember some of the stuff that your classmates brought in to share. For many of us, seeing something helps us to remember it better than just hearing about it. When scaffolding, modeling and demonstrating what you want the students to do are some of the most important components. Here are a few tips on how to model:

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  • Try engaging students by using the student fishbowl, where a group of students circled in the middle demonstrate for the outside group.
  • Before any activity or project, be sure to model what you want and how it will look when they have completed the task. You can even give them a rubric to follow along so they know what to expect.
  • Model the “Think Aloud” strategy. This is where you say everything that you are thinking as you read. This shows students how good readers use context clues to make sense of what they are reading.

2. Assess Prior Knowledge

Tap into your students’ prior knowledge by encouraging them to relate and connect to their personal lives. Ask students to share their experiences and ideas. If you notice they are having a hard time relating the content then give them a few suggestions to get them started. Use this scaffolding technique every time you start a new task.

3. Include Cooperative Learning

Try to include a quick cooperative learning technique into your lesson. Try think-pair-share, numbered heads, or turn-and-talk so students get a chance to verbally articulate what they are learning with their peers. These structured student discussions allows student to process what they are learning and share and hear others ideas on the subject. It’s a great outlet for kids and helps the students who are struggling to make sense of what they are learning.

4. Incorporate Visual Aids

Pictures, charts, graphic organizers and anything else that you can visually depict is a great scaffolding tool to use. Pictures and charts are a great visual representation of what you want students to learn, so a graphic organizer can help students visually organize their thoughts onto paper in an organized manner. They serve as a guide to help students think about what they want to write and are especially beneficial with challenging information or difficult texts.

5. Check for Understanding

Provide time for students to think while you check for understanding. For this strategy you start by discussing a new concept or idea, then you pause for a moment to let it sink in, then you ask a strategic question, and pause for another moment. Open-ended questions are the best to use here because they allow students to use their critically thinking skills to come up with an answer. Make sure to give students an ample amount of time to think about the answer, and after one student has answered, keep the others engaged by calling upon more students to reiterate what the first student just said. If you really see that students are having a hard time answering your question then use this question for your cooperative learning groups so students can get the opportunity to discuss it with their classmates.

There are a lot of scaffolding techniques that you can use in your classroom. Be sure to experiment and chose the ones that work well for you and your classroom. Although it may seem like it may take longer to teach a lesson, just remember that it will all be worth it in the end.

What scaffolding strategies do you use in your classroom? Do you have any that work especially well for you? Share with us in the comment section below. We would love to hear your ideas.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.