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The Importance of Scaffolding in Education

Scaffolding lessons are the key to supporting our diverse students and their needs. To begin the process, an educator should take into account a student's zone of proximal development. Simply put, the zone of proximal development is the distance between what the student knows and what you want them to know. Scaffolds are the tools or strategies that act as a bridge over the zone. There are many examples of acceptable scaffolding and they will be discussed in greater detail later in the post.

The direct comparison of scaffolding used in construction to that used in education works well. When erecting a building, scaffolding must be put in place to support the building and workers as they work towards an end goal. Once the goal is met, the scaffolding is removed and the construction stands on its own. If a building could not eventually stand on its own without scaffolding, it would not be considered a successful endeavor. The same is true with education; scaffolds must be removed over time.

This reminds me of one of my first years teaching. The school where I taught had a large population of ELLs and they had invested in ongoing professional development with WestEd on supporting ELL learning with scaffolds. I immediately saw the value of scaffolding as my students demonstrated success. In fact, I was so excited by the results that I used scaffolding in most of my lessons year round. Unfortunately, student performance on the summative exam, without the presence of scaffolding, was not what I had hoped for. The following year I worked with my instructional coach to remove the scaffolds over time and this time many students demonstrated mastery.

There are many types of scaffolds. They range from pre-teaching vocabulary, activating prior knowledge, think alouds and modeling. Check out some of the options at the websites listed below, give them a try and see which ones work best for you and your students.

One easy place to start is the use of sentence stems. Here is a link to one of my prior posts on sentence stems in the math classroom.


Presenting Doesn't Always Have to Mean PowerPoint

National Poetry Month

April is national poetry month!

There are still a few days left to get the kids writing creatively.

Selfie Poems.

Have students take a selfie and attach it to a poem. Instruct students to write a poem where they share things about themselves that they are proud of.

Check out the other options below.