15 teacher-tested methods to study scaffolding

Imagine someone putting a huge box of odds and ends on the floor in front of you and telling you to find out what to do with them without further instruction. Without guidance on the purpose of the activity, specific expectations, or basic information, this would be overwhelming and daunting to say the least. Sometimes our students feel the same way.

Scaffolding learning is a way to support students by breaking the learning into manageable pieces as they progress towards better understanding and ultimately greater independence. Here are 15 ways to aid learning for your students.

1. Give mini-lessons.

Break new concepts down into bite-sized pieces that build on each other. Teaching a series of mini-lessons provides students with a safety net that gradually moves them to a deeper understanding.

2. Modeling / demonstrating.

Show your students an example of what they are about to learn. For example, show a science experiment so they can see how it’s done before doing it themselves. Or collect them on the carpet and let them watch you solve a math problem in a new way.

Verbalize your thought process as you demonstrate. This gives your students a model of internal dialogue that they can copy. Click here to see an example of using Think-Alouds to improve reading comprehension.

3. Describe concepts in different ways.

Support different learning styles by approaching new concepts from multiple angles. Show them, tell them and let them try it for themselves. The more ways you approach learning, the more meaningful it becomes for students.

4. Break big tasks down into smaller steps.

Sometimes students have a hard time remembering all of the steps they need to take to complete an assignment. Build learning by breaking the instructions into sections for students to follow step by step. Give them a checklist to follow. By disassembling it, you provide scaffolding that students will need.

5. Slow down.

Here is some great advice from Tammy at The Owl Teacher. “We move so fast as teachers because we fear we won’t get through everything,” she says. “But when we slow down and give the students more time to process, we’re really helping the students. It is an effective scaffolding strategy if we pause at various points in the lesson and break it up. Think about it. When something is over your head, it is immediately overwhelming, but if you break it down into manageable pieces and take your time, you can process it much better! “

6. Scaffolding learning through the integration of visual aids.

Show a video, hand out colorful pictures, or set up a specific object to start a new lesson. For example, when teaching a lesson on polyhedra, place models of different types on the tables so students can see and touch them.

7. Frontload concept specific vocabulary.

Equip students with a specific academic language that they need to understand beforehand so that vocabulary does not become a stumbling block for higher-level learning.

8. Activate prior knowledge.

Show the students the big picture. Make connections to concepts and skills that students have already learned. Connect with experiences they have had, such as field trips or other projects.

9. Give students speaking time.

Be sure to give the children enough time to process new information by working together or dividing them into small groups. Let them articulate concepts together in their own words. Come back together as a whole group and share any insights that could be helpful to everyone. This is also a good time to implement collaborative learning structures.

10. Give students time to practice.

After you’ve modeled the learning for your students, take some time to practice with them. Have a couple of students come to the board and do a math problem. Or write a paragraph together on graph paper. Think of this guided exercise as a series of rehearsals before the final performance.

11. Check understanding during class.

Check back often to make sure the students are with you. A simple thumbs up, sticky note check-in, or desktop flipchart are some of the ways you can check understanding. See who is ready to leave, who is almost there, and who needs one-on-one calls.

12. Use graphic organizers.

A graphic organizer is a powerful visual learning tool that teachers can use to help students organize their thinking before, during, or after class. They are a great way for students to classify and communicate their ideas more effectively. A simple google search will take you to all kinds of printable graphic organizers that you can customize to suit the material you teach.

13. Try the beginnings of sentences.

Sometimes having a head start helps students gather their thoughts. Give students the first part of an explanation and ask them to fill in the blanks. Sentence beginners can be a great help, especially for English learners.

14. Coach students to help one another.

As you learn a new concept or read a difficult passage together, ask a strong student to answer a question. Then ask another student to repeat what they just said in their own words. By listening and repeating, you will strengthen your students’ understanding.

15. Set them up for success.

Students (like most of us) do better if they understand exactly what is expected of them. Describe the purpose of the task and give them specific examples of the learning objectives they are supposed to achieve. Give them clear directions and show them examples of quality work. Finally, give them a rubric so they know exactly what to do in order to master the concept successfully.

How do you design learning for your students? Come and share our WeAreTeacher HELPLINE!

Plus, 20 creative ways to check your understanding.

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