Posted by International TEFL Academy Costa Rica on 08/06/2018

What is "scaffolding" and how does it help my students?

What is


In our 4-week TEFL course, we spend a lot of time teaching you and modeling how to create lessons to meet your English-learners' needs.  One of the ways to do this in the English classroom is to scaffold your activities and your curriculum. 

Scaffolding means using  a number of instructional techniques to move students progressively toward stronger understanding and independence in the learning process. Scaffolding is used to close the gaps in what the students know and can do and what they are expected to know and do.  Just as in the world of construction, scaffolding within the classroom provides levels of support to aid our students in higher levels of comprehension and abilities to use the skills we are teaching.  And like the physical scaffolding, the supportive strategies we are providing should be progressively removed as they are no longer needed. 


11 Things You Will Learn in Your 4-Week Costa Rica TEFL Class


The shift of responsibility should move from the teacher to the student, and yet, the students should feel confident and comfortable because they should be properly prepared to complete the tasks on their own.  For instance, a teacher will break up a concept into separate parts and give the students opportunities to practice each part before putting it all together. 

Pre-teaching key vocabulary words or phrases before asking students to listen to an audio is one example of this technique.  Before asking our students to write a postcard, we should show them an example of a postcard and discuss the different components, making sure the students analyze and understand well before writing their own postcard.


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In our lesson planning instruction, we focus on the Presentation-Practice-Production (PPP) plan which basically helps the students learn by SHOWING them through a model that uses real-world context, GUIDING them through repetitive and scaffolded activities and finally, asking them to DO on their own with as little help as possible from the teacher. 

When teaching a vocabulary lesson to low-level students, I expose my students to the new vocabulary by including lots of visuals and simple grammatical structures in a dialogue that focuses on our target words during the Presentation.  I then use the images or flashcards to teach the meanings of the vocabulary. 

In the Practice portion of our lesson, I continue by using those same flashcards to play games like Slap or Memory to guide the students through repetitive and simple activities.  As we move through the Practice activities, I ensure they are getting progressively more difficult.  So after the flashcard games, I can do a matching worksheet or a True/False activity, where students are required to identify vocabulary.  Either/Or and Multiple Choice activities could follow, and then Gap Fills or exercises that ask the students to write complete sentences.  By this point, the students should have already been exposed to a number of sentences that look identical to those they must now write.




Tom has a mustache.  (True / False)


He has ( glasses / a mustache ). 


The man has a ____________.


Write a sentence to describe the man.  ___________________________________.


Finally, students should be producing the language on their own, with very little support from the teacher.   Activities good for the Production are role-plays, board games, using magazine cutouts to create descriptions or short stories, presentations, and the list goes on and on!  Students should be allowed to be a bit more creative.  There should be a number of correct answers, as long as the students are using the target vocabulary and trying to use complete sentences. 

Want to learn more about scaffolding and other techniques to incorporate into your ESL/EFL classrooms?  Sign up for one of our TEFL trainings today! 


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