“A set of training wheels on a bicycle is a classic example of scaffolding. It is adjustable and temporary, providing the young rider with the support he or she needs while learning to ride a two-wheeler. Without an aid of this sort, the complex tasks of learning to pedal, balance, and steer all at one time would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for many youngsters. This scaffold—training wheels—allows the learners to accomplish a goal, riding a bicycle successfully, and then to happily pedal his or her way into the wider world.” 

~Michael F. Graves, Bonnie Graves, and Sheldon Braaten, “Scaffolded Reading Experiences for Inclusive Classes”

 Scaffolding, sometimes referred to as guided practice, is a learning process that promotes a deeper level of understanding for students by providing learning support when a new skill or concept is introduced. As students gain a deeper understanding of the material, the support is gradually taken away so that the students gain confidence in their own abilities. Scaffolding provided can help a student or class to perform the skill independently more quickly.

Here are some day-to-day tips for your classroom when it comes to scaffolding:

  1. Know your students and understand the learning styles (visual, audio, kinesthetic etc.)
  2. Provide clear directions to reduce student confusion (hints, suggestions etc.)
  3. Give advice and provide help on how to start a math problem (provide models)
  4. Provide models of work for students to examine themselves and draw their own conclusions.
  5. Show worked out problems with step by step guidance (in books for example)
  6. Create an outline for the curriculum
  7. Identify student needs and answer any questions
  8. Monitor and evaluate (as students gain better understanding, provide less support)
  9. Have students ask and answer questions

Did you know that scaffolding is embedded into the Big Ideas Math program? Stepped-Out Examples and Study Tips are just two examples of scaffolding techniques this program provides. 

Additional Resources:

The concept of scaffolding is based on the theory of Lev Vygotsky’s ‘Zone of Proximal Development.’ Zone of Proximal Development.

How do you use scaffolding in your classroom? Share your scaffolding stories in our comments.

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