teacher helping two studentsFor students who struggle with learning a new skill or content, the teacher can provide instructional scaffolding, a process through which a teacher adds supports for students in order to enhance learning and aid in the mastery of tasks. The teacher does this by systematically building on a student’s experiences and knowledge as he or she learns a new skill. As the student increasingly masters the task, the supports are gradually removed. The teacher may need to consider different ways to scaffold for those who have difficulty reading and understanding text and for those who have difficulty mastering a new task.


Difficulty Reading and Understanding Text

teacher and student working on readingThe table below suggests a number of ways to scaffold instruction for students who have difficulty reading and comprehending text. The teacher can use the following strategies to help students understand the content. In the beginning, the teacher may be actively involved in helping students implement the strategy. As they learn the strategy, however, the teacher gradually turns over responsibility for implementing the strategy to the students.

  Strategy Examples of Strategy
Before Reading Activate prior knowledge
Preteach new vocabulary
  • Word cards
  • Word web
Make predictions
  • Use cues (e.g., title, illustrations) to make a prediction
During Reading Address unfamiliar words
  • Look up word and record definition
Monitor comprehension
  • Think aloud
Use mental imagery
  • Draw a picture
  • Role play
Use graphic organizers
  • Story map
  • Time line
  • Semantic map
After Reading Retell or summarize
  • 1-minute retell with partner
  • Make a diorama, poster, or collage
  • Make a comic book version

Difficulty Mastering a Task

teacher writing on student paperWhen a student experiences difficulty learning a new skill or task, the teacher can scaffold the instruction by specifying the task’s steps (i.e., a task analysis) and then modeling those steps while thinking aloud. For example, a teacher scaffolds instruction for a student who is having difficulty adding two two-digit numbers. To begin, the teacher performs a task analysis, breaking the task into manageable steps. Next, the teacher models each step in the task multiple times and allows time for the student to practice. As the student masters the task, the supports are gradually removed.

Task Analysis
(adding two two-digit numbers)
Step 1: Add the numbers in the one’s column.
Step 2: If the sum is less than 10, write the number under the one’s column. If the sum is 10 or greater, write the one’s digit under the one’s column and write the ten’s digit on top of the ten’s column.
Step 3: Add the numbers in the ten’s column. If applicable, be sure to include the number you carried.
Step 4: Write the sum of the numbers under the ten’s column.

To learn more about scaffolding, view the following IRIS Module: