4 Strategies for Scaffolding Instruction for ELs

In this blog, I am going to highlight how teachers of ELs can meet the language needs of their students through scaffolding. Teachers need to take into account the language demands that ELs face in content classrooms and use scaffolding to meet these demands.  When teachers scaffolds lessons, they break down the language into manageable pieces or chunks. This way, students can be given the necessary support to understand the information provided in the lesson. Here are four ways of  scaffolding  lessons when ELs need support during a content area lesson.

1. Connect new information to prior experiences and learning.

Introduce new concepts by linking them to what ELs already know. The goal for teachers should be to provide comprehensible input to students. Teachers need to consider what schema ELs bring to the classroom and to link instruction to the students’ personal, cultural, and world experiences.  Teachers should also strive to make the information relevant to ELs and to understand how culture impacts learning in their classroom.

2. Preteach academic vocabulary.

Previewing and preteaching new vocabulary words is a scaffold necessary to help ELs understand academic content. We can’t do this by giving ELs a list of vocabulary words from a unit and having them look up the words in a dictionary. ELs will not know which definition applies to the context of the word, and they won’t understand the definition.  They require direct instruction of new vocabulary. Teachers should also provide practice in pronouncing new words and multiple exposures to new terms, words, idioms, and phrases. Word walls should be used at all grade levels.

3. Use graphic organizers to make lessons more visual.

I can’t say enough about the importance of employing all kinds of visual supports when teaching ELs. The most important scaffold for teaching content-area material is the use of graphic organizers. Teachers need to use organizers such as webs, Venn diagrams, and charts to help them better comprehend academic texts and organize information. Graphic organizers can also help students develop higher level thinking skills and promote creativity.

4. Support EL writing by using sentence frames.

Sentence frames allow ELs to use key content area vocabulary when writing. Frames provide structure so that ELs can produce sentences on their own. When scaffolding writing, teachers need to provide a sentence frame. The blanks can be located in the beginning, middle, or end of sentences. ELs can be required to fill in one word or more to finish the sentence. Here is an excellent lesson on Teacher Tube that illustrates using sentence frames to jumpstart EL writing.

Do you have a scaffold that you’d like to share? Post a comment in the box below to communicate your strategies to colleagues.

About Judie Haynes

Judie Haynes
Judie Haynes taught elementary ESL for 28 years and is the author and coauthor of eight books for teachers of ELs , the most recent being “Teaching to Strengths: Supporting Students Living with Trauma, Violence and Chronic Stress“ with Debbie Zacarian and Lourdes Alvarez-Ortiz. She was a columnist for the TESOL publication "Essential Teacher" and is also cofounder and comoderator of the Twitter Chat for teachers of English learners #ELLCHAT.
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11 Responses to 4 Strategies for Scaffolding Instruction for ELs

  1. James Roth says:

    Too often misguided curriculums undermine accepted and supported pedagogies. No matter how correct this might be, it is, from my experience, rare to teach at an institution that allows for normalcy.

  2. James Roth says:

    It would be nice if many teachers actually did this rather than resorting to grammar instruction because students have grammatical errors in their writing. I taught Chinese students in universities for more than ten years. They knew grammar better than I did, but their writing was full of errors. Why? Lack of compressible input, a focus on rules. Sadly, too many teachers still resort to rule-based instruction, which is ineffective and boring to the students. Moreover, comprehensible input enlarges students knowledge, which should also be a goal of an EFL/ESL course.

  3. eshal fatima says:

    Great Job!
    Your blog is so good and informative.

  4. Thanks for sharing great tips!

  5. Tan Huynh says:

    Hi, Judie.

    Thanks for writing this post. I referenced it when I wrote my post about the 7 principles of EAL instruction. One of the key principles is scaffolding (http://www.empoweringells.com/principles/).

    • Rokaia Ismahane Madaoui says:

      I need more active learning strategies I can use in reading writing skills in my class

  6. Ngo Nguyen says:

    Thank you very much for sharing these four statetgies! Would you please also share the references for these strategies as well. I found them very helpful for my thesis and like to include them in the writing. Thanks a lot!

  7. Ketsuda Dechakambhu says:

    Thank you so much for your information as for my supporting idea to continue my research in this tiltle. It is so helpful and worth reading.

  8. Pushp Lata says:

    Thanks for sharing your views on scaffolding. All the four strategies; connecting the new information with the existing, using sentence frame, pre teaching of vocabulary and using graphics are wonderful ways of maximally using the ZPD of learners. However, I feel that for advance learners integrating online writing tutorials on the Learning Management Systems (LMSs) structured for web-supported instruction, can also help scaffolding process especially for developing the high order thinking skills. I have successfully used online forums for teaching speech writing to my Effective Public Speaking course students. Thanks once again for taking up such an interesting and useful topic for discussion.

  9. This article is quite interesting I saw so many issues on scaffolding but I never knew the full meaning of the word in teaching and learning context not to talk of how to apply it in my class. But now I am at home with. I am grateful to have this opportunity. thank you

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