What is scaffolding?

Scaffolding is the support you give your students as they learn new skills and/or concepts. As their skills improve and mature, you gradually remove the supports until they're confident enough to use these skills and/or concepts without any help.

Essentially, scaffolding is exactly what it sounds like: a temporary structure that makes the process of learning a bit easier for students. It's like training wheels on a bicycle—once you master the mechanics of pedaling and stopping, you take the training wheels off and work on your balance.

There are many types of scaffolding.

Because scaffolding is a fairly broad term, it can take many forms. These forms include:

  • Teaching vocabulary words before reading a text that includes those words
  • Breaking a complex task into smaller, more manageable pieces
  • Using texts with annotations
  • Teaching students about Shakespeare's writing style and complex sentence construction before reading one of his works
  • For older texts, using a book that presents a modernized version of the text right next to the original
  • Giving students a model to follow—especially helpful for complex writing assignments

There are many, many ways to use scaffolding in your classroom, so your favorite method might not be listed here. If there's a method you want to tell us about, send us an email and we'll add it to this post and credit you.

Scaffolding: Temporary support that helps students achieve proficiency with a skill or concept. Scaffolding is gradually removed as the student improves.