Scaffolding: One Way to Individualize Instruction

by Debbie Keiser

What happens when a child is not ready for a skill he experiences in the classroom? In most situations, the teacher provides assistance, perhaps by modeling, giving hints, or directly teaching the skill. This is called scaffolding. Many states are revising their standards for birth to five with increasingly difficult indicators to be mastered. Providers using state standards as a basis for creating lesson plans are challenged to find ways to scaffold these skills so children are adequately prepared for kindergarten. More and more pressure is falling on teachers to make sure children are meeting these stringent guidelines.

When a teacher scaffolds learning, she considers the current skill level of the child and uses different instructional techniques with him to help him progress toward understanding and independently performing the skill. Scaffolding shifts the responsibility of learning from the teacher to the child, with the teacher providing ongoing diagnosis and adjustment to related activities. Here are a few simple scaffolding strategies you can use with your children right away.

Full Instruction of a Task: In this case, a child does not have any previous experience with the skill and it must be taught. An example might be tying shoes. Once the skill is introduced, the child has a foundation upon which to build knowledge. You will be able to use some of the other scaffolding strategies the next time the skill is addressed.

Providing Hints, Not the Solution: Providing hints is a strategy to use with a child who is fully capable of achieving mastery of a skill. Example: “Can you make a bunny ear out of a shoelace?”

Guided Practice: Begin by teaching the easiest part of the skill and then guide the child through the more difficult parts. Example: “First, make a bunny ear with each lace. Next, cross the bunny ears and pull the top one through the bunny hole…”

Modeling: Modeling is a great strategy for a visual learner, and is a great scaffolding technique. Example: Demonstrating part of the shoe-tying process would be appropriate here.

Asking Guiding Questions: Asking guiding questions allows a child to recall previous learning and build his own knowledge. Example: “What do you do after you make the bunny ears? What do you do next?”

Though scaffolding usually occurs in the moment, it never hurts to be prepared with strategies to help you!

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