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Scaffolding Instruction to Support Diverse Learners + FREEBIE

scaffolding and potentialThe concept of scaffolding can actually be tied to Lev Vitgosky’s Zone of Proximal Development. Vygotsky believed that a learner’s developmental level consisted of two parts: the “actual developmental level” and the “potential developmental level. Scaffolding can be described as the bridge that is used to connect what a student already knows to the new learning that he or she will acquire. It is essentially connecting the new to the known.

Why should scaffolding be important to educators?

Scaffolding instruction should be like gold to educators teaching in high needs schools or who teach a diverse population of students. Teachers who scaffold their lessons when teaching complex concepts are telling their students that they believe in their students’ “potential” to learn what they are teaching. The actual development level of their students does not make them shy away from teaching their lesson or compel them to water down the content.

Student achievement is important to teachers who plan their lessons for students who may need more support with the on grade level content. The grade level standard is the goal and the scaffolded lesson is the road map that teachers use to get students to reach the goal.

Teachers who scaffold their lessons when teaching complex concepts are telling their students that they believe in their students’ “potential” to learn what they are teaching. Click To Tweet

What does scaffolding look like in a lesson?

Scaffolding may look different in each content area. According to Wood, Bruner, and Ross scaffolding most effective when support  is matched to the needs of the learner. For example, the needs of a student in math may not be the same in reading.Scaffolded math lesson multiplying whole numbers and decimals

Many administrators tend to generalize students, academic ability. They will ask questions like, “Why is this student doing so well in reading and not in math?” I cannot tell you how many times I have had to have this lively discussion about why certain students perform well in reading and are in the red in math. It seems as if there’s this new idea among certain administrators that if a student is strong is one area they should strong in every content area. NEWS FLASH!!! It doesn’t work like that.

The grade level standard is the goal and the scaffolded lesson is the road map that teachers use to get students to reach the goal. Click To Tweet

Scaffolding vs. Discovery

Over years I have heard some trainers and teachers say, “Let the students discover first.” I always wonder why would I let them discover when they don’t have a clue about what to look for! From a Vitgotskyian approach to learning  the teacher’s role is to moderate the students’ learning activity as they share knowledge through social interactions (Dixon-Krauss, 1996 p.18)




Scaffolding is an important part of effective teaching. It can include modeling, providing cues, and creating an activity the builds from basic to complex.

When attempting to scaffold a lesson consider these 4 questions:

  1. How will you assess the students’ background knowledge?
  2. What will you use to connect the new learning to what the students already know?
  3. How will you break the content into smaller chunks?
  4. When will you provide feedback?

Teachers of diverse learners cannot afford to create lessons that just require him/her to stand and deliver. All students have potential. Are you creating lessons that communicate that you believe in your students’ potential?

One comment

  1. Tee says:

    AMEN! Way to break down the importance of scaffolding. It can make or break the learning for the student and is the key to providing more rigor for students.

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