Scaffolding Instruction for English Language Learners

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  • 0:03 Scaffolding
  • 1:26 Chunking
  • 1:57 Building on Student Knowledge
  • 3:40 Modeling
  • 4:12 Guided Practice
  • 4:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Marquis Grant

Marquis has a Doctor of Education degree.

The number of English language learners (ELLs) in the classroom is on the rise, and teachers must have strategies for teaching these students. This lesson will highlight ways in which to scaffold instruction for ELLs to help them become successful in the classroom.


As the number of English language learners (ELLs) in classrooms across the United States increases, there is a greater need to find ways to teach them so that they can be successful. In this lesson, we'll examine what it means to scaffold instruction, and we'll look at a few specific techniques: chunking, activating background knowledge, modeling information, and guided practice.

When you scaffold instruction, you break your teaching into smaller parts so that you do not give students too much information at once. You don't want to overwhelm students who are already struggling with many academic concepts, so breaking the information into smaller pieces helps them to absorb it without becoming frustrated.

Scaffolding instruction helps you to better support your students in the classroom by determining areas in which they're not doing well. When you assess student difficulties, it will allow you, as the teacher, to create a plan for re-teaching the specific part that may be causing them to struggle.

Many ELL students come to the classroom with little exposure to the English language. Other ELL students have no prior experiences with the English language and have difficulty with the learning process. That is why it is important for teachers to use various instructional methods, also known as differentiating instruction, so that all students have an opportunity to be successful learners in the classroom. Let's take a look at four scaffolding techniques that can be used to differentiate instruction.


You can scaffold instruction by chunking the lesson. By chunking, you're breaking a lesson into smaller, manageable sections. This makes learning easier and increases comprehension. The teacher can either chunk the text for students or have the students chunk it themselves. In a social studies class, for example, you may have students read a story with three or more paragraphs. As they are doing this, you may chunk each paragraph and check for student comprehension. You may also take two lines at a time, read the lines, then check for comprehension.

Building on Student Knowledge

Students are more successful when they make connections between what they already know and what they are expected to learn. Activating students' prior knowledge and building a background helps them to better understand vocabulary words and concepts. This is especially important for ELL students who may not have sufficient prior knowledge to make these connections.

One activity that helps activate prior knowledge is a K-W-L chart. Using a piece of chart paper, the classroom Smartboard, or the chalkboard, you make three columns, then write the letter K in one column, W in the second column, and L in the last column.

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