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What Is Scaffolding Instruction?

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  • 0:03 Scaffolding
  • 0:46 Providing Support
  • 2:02 An Example
  • 4:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Derek Hughes
Scaffolding instruction is an incredibly important technique to use when teaching. This lesson will introduce you to scaffolding and provide some examples to give a clear picture of this technique at work.

Scaffolding

Visualize a building in the process of being built. As construction workers add to their work, they often use support systems that will later be taken down as the building becomes more stable. These supports are commonly known as scaffolds or scaffolding.

In construction, scaffolding is used in the process of building something in order to support the pieces that aren't yet firmly in place. In education, scaffolding instruction is used in much the same way. Like constructing a building, conveying information to your students is never done all at once and without support. Scaffolding instruction techniques allow teachers to present information to their students piece by piece, building with each lesson upon a lesson already learned.

Providing Support

The main purpose of scaffolding instruction is to break information up into chunks of information that can be more easily learned. Doing so allows instructors to naturally support their students' absorption of the information. With scaffolding instruction, students are able to master skills or ideas that are required for further learning of a certain concept.

Breaking up large lessons into smaller bits allows you as the teacher to see which students are having trouble and with which concepts. If a student is struggling on a particular chunk of new information, an instructor may briefly backtrack to make sure the student has a proper grasp on relevant background information (i.e., their scaffolding). Whether by reviewing a lesson chunk with the whole class or by providing an individual with tools to better understand the information, teachers have the opportunity to provide more support to students not yet ready to move on to the next building block of the larger lesson.

As students demonstrate their comprehension of lesson chunks, you begin to remove support from already-mastered concepts and introduce new concepts. This process is repeated until a whole unit, book, or concept is mastered by your students and they're able to work without the supports in place. Scaffolding instruction is much easier to see in practice, which we'll now illustrate.

An Example

Let's say your class was about to begin reading the book 'Number the Stars' by Lois Lowry. In order to scaffold your instruction of this book, it would be useful to break up the information into chunks. For example, before your class begins reading the book, you could create a list of vocabulary words that students will see as they read. Students can begin to learn these vocabulary terms and will already know them once they begin the book.

While students are learning the vocabulary, you might introduce historical context for the book. Though this can't always be done for the books your class reads, it can be done with some. 'Number the Stars' has a particularly interesting history, and it may be appropriate to teach several mini-lessons on World War II and the Nazi occupation of Denmark. In teaching these lessons, you would be providing a history-based scaffold from which students can build a deeper appreciation for and understanding of the book.

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