Why is Scaffolding Important in ESL?

Why is Scaffolding Important in ESL
Why is Scaffolding Important in ESL? – Projectenglishmastery.com

If English is your second language, you will understand how difficult it is to navigate different school subjects without having the right guidance. It can feel as if the cause of this problem is either the language barrier or just something you are doing wrong.

Scaffolding is a technique that provides detailed steps when learning any subject. Integrating this technique is important when helping ESL students better understand and learn the content of a lesson. It can transform what you have learned to develop new skills in the student’s everyday life.

Keep reading if you want to know more about the importance of using scaffolding as part of an effective ESL teaching strategy. This article will provide reasons and techniques used for many centuries to make teaching successful.

Also see: This is Why Role Playing is Important in ESL

Scaffolding is Important in ESL

Learning a second language is difficult, to begin with, and having to go to school to have more piled on can be even more challenging. There are many reasons why scaffolding is considered important in ESL. It is one of the most important ways that a teacher can help ESL students.

Encourages Students to Reach Their Highest Potential

Scaffolding usually refers to teaching practices and techniques that initially set a high goal for students to achieve, then, recognizing the skills the students have, build up their skills to meet that goal.

If the student is not able to understand the task, they will not be able to meet the expectation successfully. Scaffolding is important in this situation because if given proper direction, the student will focus on completing the assignment to the best of their ability.

Scaffolding provides group activities that help correct, improve, or reinforce students’ understanding of skills and allow them to try a project with help before doing it individually.

A way to encourage scaffolding is through projects or research so the student can look beyond what they already know. It’s almost like building on something that is already known.

Helps Expand their Vocabulary

Gradually delivering the lesson plan ensures the enhancement of the student’s vocabulary. If completing the lesson plan is the objective, the goal would be to use familiar words to help the student understand the lesson’s focus.

After the student understands the content, the teacher will progressively enhance the vocabulary. It’s basically building on what they already know.

Think about the things that you do regularly. Once that routine is set up, you will do the same thing every day. The same happens with scaffolding. The only difference is that the additional help is removed once the routine is mastered because, at that point, the student has already mastered those skills.

These skills will then naturally come until it’s time to introduce another educational level to the classroom or the individual.

Eases Communication Between Students and Teachers

If the student can understand what the teacher is asking, (s)he is now able to engage in the activity and not be deterred by the language barrier.

Instead of worrying about what the teacher is saying a word by word, the important part is that the student and the teacher can be on the same page. If the student begins to struggle, the teacher has to go back and target the problem areas.

Once that milestone is achieved, the student can now use the newly obtained information to effectively execute any assigned task. 

Types of Scaffolding

Scaffolding is used as a temporary tool to help ESL students improve their academic skills as well as their language. Here are the three types of scaffolding:

Sensory Scaffolding

Uses your senses to understand and learn information that you don’t know. You do not need to communicate to learn and complete the assignment with others verbally.

Teaching with visual aids can be done through:

  • Posters
  • Projectors 
  • Handouts

Interactive Scaffolding

Allows students that are struggling to learn through group activities. Students that like to socialize will most likely succeed in this category. It consists of discussing and forming their own opinions. The language gets internalized as they get more practice through other interactions. 

Here are some examples that can better explain interactive scaffolding:

  • Doing a research project, presenting it, and allowing others to present
  • Gather into groups to discuss certain topics assigned by the teacher

Graphic Scaffolding

This process provides a way to explain information through charts and graphs. This can help a teacher deliver their lesson plan when there are numbers or information that is difficult to understand.

It is a process by which a teacher adds support for learners to enhance learning and aid in the mastery of English or tasks.

It can be delivered through the use of:

  • Graphs
  • Charts
  • Interactive tables
Why is Scaffolding Important in ESL
Why is Scaffolding Important in ESL? – Projectenglishmastery.com

Scaffolding Strategies in Classrooms 

Imagine being in a classroom and the teacher explaining a story that was just read. It might seem like a blur to an ESL student because the extensive vocabulary might affect understanding of the content. Implementing scaffolding strategies is effective and time-consuming, so be patient because it might take some time to see results.

Introduce New Vocabulary

Use new words in the lesson plan to allow students to explore unfamiliar words slowly. Once the vocabulary is mastered, the new and old information can be combined to make connections.

New vocabulary can also be exposed through homework that requires translations.  An activity that could be done in the classroom is practicing the pronunciation of words since this will require more time.

It’s also a good idea to introduce new vocabulary while in class as the student progresses. Students can become more familiarized with the new words once they are presented to them.

Group Learning Interaction

Have students work together to allow them to engage and learn from each other. Assign projects based on interests to help develop the language.

Ideas can begin to flow once students feel comfortable with the content of the assignment. It is about learning from one another to strengthen the level of knowledge.

Use Visual Aids

Teaching through visual aids gives students another layer of support. Some examples of visuals aids are considered to be:

  • Charts 
  • Flashcards 
  • Pictures 
  • Venn diagrams 
  • Videos

There is the possibility of entering a comfortable territory because visual associations can be a reminder of what the ESL student already knows; it makes learning more enjoyable.

Step-by-Step Process

Teachers would facilitate the class content by breaking the lesson plan into small sections and encouraging students to ask questions. This process gives teachers the opportunity to discuss and explain what needs to be done without confusing students.

Some tasks that can help may consist of:

  • Taking turns reading and discussing the reading 
  • Breaking down a project into small sections 
  • Writing a math problem in steps

Some students might not feel comfortable completing the tasks above, but consistent practice will improve those skills. Repeating this process in different subjects will improve those skills drastically.

Introduce Technology

Adding additional support to the classroom can spark interest. Students can search the internet or create assignments online.

Benefits of Scaffolding in ESL

Supporting a student where English is their second language can be challenging but also rewarding. Achieving your highest potential is possible if the teacher builds a lesson plan that targets the student’s needs.

Many positive outcomes can surge once scaffolding has been executed. There are many benefits of scaffolding:

  • Engages learningIt encourages students to want to learn beyond what they already know. It sparks interest in the student. 
  • Build self-esteem: Teachers help students complete their tasks effectively and give them confidence. 
  • Expands vocabulary: Repeating and learning new words helps students expand their vocabulary in ways that they did not know they could.
  • Simplifies the task: It helps the student understand the task by getting simpler directions on completing the assignment.
  • Encourages continuous learning: Once a teaching level is mastered, the student will continue learning different and more advanced information.

Is Scaffolding Really Important in ESL?

So, is it really important to use scaffolding in ESL? Yes. It is not only beneficial to the student but also the teacher.

Scaffolding is a tool that expedites the student’s learning and helps them gain a firm command of the language. It’s important to support the students without making any language distinctions because the scaffolding technique gives slow but effective results.


Hello friends, I am Altiné. I am SO excited you are here! I am the guy behind Project English Mastery. I am from Toronto, Canada. I graduated with a Master in International Economics and Finance from Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. After working a few years in the banking industry and completing my 120 TEFL from the University Of Toronto, I decided to teach English in China. Project English Mastery is a blog that provides helpful resources for English Teachers and Learners: vocabulary and grammar, exercises, and class activities ideas and tips.

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