Scaffolding Bridges Gaps in Learning

Scaffolding is a powerful tool that can be used both socially and educationally to fill in the gap between what is known and what is unknown.

How It Works In Education

In education , it has been found to be especially useful to Language Development (LD) teachers working with non-English speaking children.

These children have a huge depth and breadth of knowledge and vocabulary (the known), but are lacking the skills needed in the new language (the unknown) to make the transition.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that because a person cannot communicate effectively in the target language that they are lacking intelligence.

The reality is often the exact opposite; with brilliance hiding behind a language barrier.

Social Applications

Socially, it works the same way. There is a barrier hiding the brilliance that hides beneath the surface. The unknown can include how to share, make friends, understand consequences, and so on.

Scaffolding is where you can casually and naturally step in and help them bridge the gap between their known and unknown worlds.

Your job isn’t to do it for them, but to provide just enough support for success. Our experts share some of their best advice.

Ask Questions, Don’t give answers

Sounds like an oxymoron, huh? This technique activates prior knowledge by using questions such as, “Remember when…?” Why, you ask? It forces them to think and connect previous experiences or knowledge to the present.

Explain “Why”

Children have a relentless need to know why. Before getting frustrated, understand that giving them the why gives them valuable pieces of information about natural consequences in a non-threatening way. Telling them because you said so gives them nothing to work with. For example:

Child’s question: “Why do I have to pick up my toys?”

Answer 1: “Because I said so.”

Answer 2: “When you don’t pick up your toys, someone could step on them and either break them or get hurt. We wouldn’t want that to happen, would we?”

Answer 3: “When you don’t pick up your toys, I have too. And if I have to pick them up, I might not give them back.”

Be Empathetic

foster and Cline do an excellent job of explaining the power of empathy in thier book, Parenting with Logic and Love.

Show your children that you understand how they feel by restating it. This scaffolding technique allows them to reframe and verbalize their feelings. It also allows you to paint a different picture of the outcome. For example:

“I bet you’re worried that you’ll be scared at Ryan's house. Remember that you can go to sleep anywhere.”

I bet you were really sad that Sarah didn’t want to play with you. Maybe next time you could bring out a game that she might like to play.”

What Do You Think?

By adding on, “what do you think?” to the end of any of the explaining or empathetic statements, you give your child a chance to reflect, appraise, and weigh his or her decision in a gentle, natural way.

There are so many ways to fill in those gaps. Scaffolding provides you with a gentle, neutral way to do it.