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Scaffolding Methods


Scaffolding is one of the best ways that a teacher can help ESL students. Scaffolding usually refers to teaching practices that initially set a high goal for students to attain, then, recognizing the skills the students have, build up their skills to meet that goal. To do this, teachers take incremental steps checking for comprehension and attainment of the desired skills.

Every teacher scaffolds their classes differently based on their students. Some ideas for scaffolding can include:

  • Introducing a concept through a mind map, vocabulary list, word wall or group activity
  • Modeling a text or practice through sample materials or demonstrations
  • Highlighting specific themes, mechanisms or ideas in a sample text
  • Providing a structures exercise (fill-in-the-blank, information gap, interview, graphic organizers) to help structure the students understanding of the material
  • Provide group activities that help to correct, improve or reinforce a students understanding of skills and to allow students to try a project with help before doing it individually.
  • After the student demonstrates their knowledge of the material and their skills, give each student an individual project that can show their understanding and skills.
  • Scaffolding is especially beneficial to ELL students because it focuses explicitly on the development of skills through the vehicle of content. Rather than rote exercises, it requires students to activate what they learn in multiple settings and provides more of a authentic experience of mainstream content in school.
  • In addition, the use of scaffolding can be used to provide students with more cognitively challenging exercises without being to heavily dependent on language. This factor is especially important for students of a higher age but of lower English language skills. Those students need to be intellectually engaged and providing scaffolded lessons can help students become better engaged.
  • In groups, scaffolding can take place naturally. In the act of communicating, students frequently will correct each other, ask for clarification and seek to find a negotiated meaning. This gives students the feedback they need to improve their language skills without direct teacher instruction.
  • For all ESL students, certain skills can be beneficial at every level and can provide the tools to problem solve language uncertainties.
  • Teaching prefixes and suffixes can help students deduce the meaning of words in a text. (example: preview, redo, untrue, incomplete, builder, walked)
  • For students from counties with Latin-based languages, teaching cognates can be helpful.
  • Teaching dictionary skills can help students research words they don't understand and use the dictionary correctly. (Inform students that words have certain connotations that may not be written in the dictionary.)
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