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    Scaffolding in Education: Best Tips & Tricks

    One day while walking by the living room, I saw my toddler struggling to open a sippy cup. I stood there for a while and soon realized that he is frustrated and almost ready to give up. I immediately went up to him, pointed at the opening of the cup, and soon he figured out the way to open it. That day, I realized the importance of providing the right support at the right time. 

    Opening a sippy cup for the first time for a toddler is just like learning a new math concept without a teacher’s support for a child or assembling an electronic device without a manual for an adult. Imagine how impossible or frustrating it could seem at first. 

    This is where scaffolding comes into the picture in education. If done strategically, scaffolding can help learners go from “what can I do” to “what more can I do”. It helps students explore a world full of possibilities and make way for a brighter future! 

    Read on to find out all about scaffolding.

    Table of Contents: 

    What is Scaffolding?

    Scaffolding in education is a process where teachers provide ‘temporary’ support to students in completing tasks that are generally beyond a student’s capabilities. It provides a framework to describe a teacher’s role in a student’s learning.

    The concept of scaffolding in education builds on the idea of the zone of proximal development (ZDP). ZDP refers to the difference between what a learner can do without help and what the learner can do with help. However, scaffolding defines the ‘amount’ of help or support that needs to be given. 

    The idea is to provide the right amount of support at the right time. Too little help can make the student frustrated and unmotivated and too much support can make the student dependent on the teacher. Therefore, the most appropriate way would be to assist only in the areas where students struggle. This is also to ensure that students complete as much of the task as possible by themselves.

    Just like physical scaffolding, the amount of support provided is consciously reduced or even completely removed and the responsibility of learning shifts from the teacher to the student. 

    Summarising the purpose of scaffolding
    Scaffolding – Easing the transition to make students help themselves

    Effective Scaffolding Strategies

    Remember our good old school days and how we were asked to work on a project during summer vacations? We were expected to work on it from initiation to completion, without any guidance or support. Some students were easily able to do the project on their own, while others struggled.

    The situation described above is a reflection of how the students are taught in the classroom.

    Teachers who use effective scaffolding strategies in the classroom are more likely to prepare students for independent learning and execution. This is because the learners who are given the right amount of support while learning a new concept or skill are more likely to use that learning independently later.

    Thus, using the right scaffolding strategies at the right time makes all the difference.

    Here are few of these strategies that teachers can use in their classrooms for effective learning.

    Effective scaffolding strategies in a glance
    Strategies for effective scaffolding
    • Making connections: When introducing something new or teaching a complex lesson, it is always better to build on a student’s existing knowledge. At times, this may happen naturally, but sometimes the teacher may need to consciously connect the new knowledge with the students’ existing knowledge by providing links and connections. Once students connect this new knowledge to the existing one, the teacher can then immediately notice the change in a student’s level of understanding.

      Teachers can even make use of well-designed worksheets to understand the students’ level of knowledge and make better connections with their existing knowledge. SplashLearn worksheets are designed to help parents and teachers make the best use of this scaffolding strategy. 
    • Teaching key vocabulary in advance: When learning a new topic, children may get confused by the terms they don’t understand. An introduction or a quick revision of key vocabulary terms in advance can help children focus better.

      For example, when introducing addition and subtraction, it is better to ensure that children are comfortable with words such as ‘more’ and ‘less’. Similarly, when introducing fractions for the first time, it is critical to make the kids understand the relevance of equal parts.
    • Using visual aids: When teaching a new concept, make sure to introduce it through some kind of visuals. It helps them build connections with their previous knowledge and leads to better understanding of the concept or the skill.

      For example, using concrete objects, models, pictures or even games in math instructions reduces the abstraction and makes math more understandable for the kids. Visuals like concept maps, venn diagrams, flow charts help students to make connections and eventually lead to better retention of the concept.

    SplashLearn math games are an excellent visual tool that makes abstract math concepts easier for the students to understand and practice. 

    • Using Models: Having kids to create models of the problems they are solving helps them to solidify their thinking. For example, when teaching addition and subtraction, number bonds may prove to be an excellent model that helps students relate the numbers. Teachers may also make good use of mind maps for better knowledge of students’ level of understanding. This helps them in providing the right support in the right area. 
    • Creating Healthy Environment: The classroom environment should be supportive and encouraging. It is also important to ensure that students are not afraid to experience failures. Students should feel free to take risks and teachers should encourage them to try different approaches to solve problems independently.

      They may also be encouraged to create their own methods and not just follow the existing ones. This approach may need teachers’ validation and timely feedback to encourage the students to go beyond what is taught to them. Fostering healthy competition among peers will also help them to learn from each other and provide a helping hand to their fellow classmates.

    Every child is different and therefore, their learning styles also need to be different. Teachers need to experiment with different scaffolding strategies to find out what works best for a particular child. Even though it demands a lot of time and effort, it will definitely be worth it to see our children become independent and confident learners and achieve goals that are beyond their potential level. 

    The sky is the limit for our young and fearless learners!

    TIPS FOR PARENTS

    Scaffolding in education is not limited to teachers only. Parents can also try a few tricks that can help them be a part of their kids educational journey. Here are some of the strategies or tips that the parents can easily implement at the comfort of their home to help kids learn in their most natural environment:

    Tips for Parents in Scaffolding in Education
    Best Tips and Tricks for Parents in Scaffolding in Education

    1. Show and Tell:

    Kids learn best when they see others as kids are born with an innate ability to observe and imitate. This is also called observational learning. So, the best way to teach a concept or a skill is to do it in front of the kids and letting them copy. This method or strategy fits best into the philosophy of, “I do, we do, you do”.

    However, the parents need to be careful of a few things:

    1. Do not always show the perfect way to do a thing, as this stops them from experimenting or failing. Show them that it’s ok to try different approaches or to fail at times. 
    2. Do not expect them to master the concept or the skill at the first attempt. Kids take their own time to learn, so give them the time to struggle. Intervene if required, but make sure to intervene at the right time as intervening before when it’s needed makes them dependent. Similarly, if we intervene later in time, then it frustrates them. 
    3. Do not compare them with other kids or expect them to learn at the same pace. Every child learns differently and scaffolding should be done according to the pace of your kid. Some may need more help than others, so give them the required support at the right time. 

    2. Wait to intervene:

    Parents need to identify the right time to intervene. They should not jump to help their children the minute they see them struggling, and should give the child enough time to figure the solution out. Also it’s important that parents provide only the necessary support that the kid needs to move to the next step and not solve the entire problem. They should again wait for the next time their child struggles to intervene if required. 

    3.  Talking is Key:

    It’s important that parents talk while teaching so that children can easily grasp everything. It’s also advised to let the children explain back what they have just been taught as it helps the parents comprehend where the child is struggling and how much support they need to provide. Talking and explaining also helps the kids understand and remember the concept or skill for a longer period of time.

    Encourage healthy discussions on the feasibility of a method or the strategy to help the kids understand why a method/strategy works or does not work. Let them give reasons and decide what works and what does not. Parents may even pose questions or situations like what about this solution? what about that solution? These questions help the little learners to think of other possible situations and their solutions, making them understand the concept in a variety of ways whilst sharpening their problem solving skills. 

    Parents and child laughing together
    Parents talking to their child happily

    GIF source

    3. Pause, Pause & Pause:

    A complete concepts or skill should not be taught in one session. Parents can decide to break the concept down into meaningful chunks for children to learn better. Parents can also use this opportunity to ask questions. Questions may be guided or open ended, but they need to be thought of well in advance. It’s important for the children to pause and reflect. Reflect on what they have learned so far and see what else needs to be learned by them.

    4. Role Reversals:

    The best way to assess a child’s understanding is to let them teach you the same concept. Students can become the best teachers when they know a concept. This is because they try to teach from the learner’s perspective. Also, this gives them the required confidence to practice the skill, thus giving them a sense of ownership. 

    5. Encourage and Motivate:

    Scaffolding is in itself an engaging and enriching experience for a child, where they own the responsibility for their own learning, without any stress or fear of failure. However, if the parents make conscious efforts to encourage their children at each step of the learning process, they feel even more motivated to achieve better results which are beyond their capabilities.

    For effective scaffolding, parents should empower their kids to work on their own towards achieving mastery. In the entire scaffolding process, parents need to be very patient and provide support in a way that enables kids to master skills on their own. Remember that you are “preparing them for life” and “not protecting them from life”. Give them the chance to make mistakes and learn from them. 

    Scaffolding in Educational Games

    Scaffolding in education is not only a classroom tool. It is also very effective in digital education because what a teacher is to students, a game is to the player.

    Educational games, backed by adaptive clues and challenges, are effective scaffolding tools as they not only let the student learn at their own pace but also lets them learn from their mistakes. And all this can happen whilst having fun, without the fear of failing. 

    Following are the ways in which educational games use scaffolding as a teaching tool:

    • Fading: Just like a classroom, educational games are designed in a way in which the level of scaffolding keeps reducing with each level. Games can easily translate the concept of “fading” i.e. once the player has mastered a skill, the game can consciously reduce (fade away) the use of hints and tutorials. 
    • Tracking: The game can then track players’ moves and provide necessary feedback and support whenever the player struggles at any new level or skill. 
    • Application: Educational games can help learners not only learn the required concept or skill but also enable them to apply the concept in a variety of settings for better performance and retention.
    • Problem Solving: Scaffolding through games not only helps children become better learners but also great problem solvers. This is because the games puts them in unknown situations which forces them to figure out the best possible solution.
    • Rewards: The in-game rewards provide the necessary motivation to the learners which encourages them to learn beyond their potential level. This is primarily because if the game presents exactly what the learner knows then there will be little or no need of scaffolding and the game would become very easy without any challenges. 
    Rewards on splashlearn games
    In-game Rewards on SplashLearn

    SplashLearn games are designed with a similar philosophy and parents or teachers can use these games for effective learning. 

    Even though scaffolding is one of the techniques in education, it is undoubtedly the most effective of all. If done correctly, this can help teachers and parents prepare independent and confident learners who are better prepared for the future. 

    Scaffolding with Assessments on SplashLearn 

    Let SplashLearn help you and your little learner in learning with interactive games and playsheets. Loved by 40 Million+ Parents and Teachers, SplashLearn is the one stop solution for your kid.

    SplashLearn’s diagnostic assessments can help you assess your students’ skill level and get customized suggestions for their improvements. You can now bridge the COVID learning gaps and get tailored made learning plans for each of your students from the results of the assessments.

    SplashLearn can help you successfully scaffold your students’ learnings and navigate the process of their academic growth!

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    AUTHOR
    Sakshi Bajaj
    Sakshi Bajaj is a math teacher by profession and is currently working with SplashLearn as a curriculum designer. She happens to be teacher by choice and not by chance & thus, she enjoys creating content that changes the way math is taught in elementary schools. She has one mantra in life - to create memories & make the most of the time available with friends and family.

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