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Scaffolding by Amanda Pogany

Using Scaffolding Effectively

Often, the ultimate goal in our classrooms is to appear to be obsolete: for our students to complete a task and demonstrate skill acquisition independent of us.  One of the challenges in the classroom is the pace at which students achieve this independence.  Some get there quickly, some take a little longer, and for some independence is simply not a reasonable expectation.  That is where scaffolding comes in. 


Scaffolded instruction is "the systematic sequencing of prompted content, materials, tasks, and teacher and peer support to optimize learning".1 Designing lessons and planning units with scaffolding, allows you to slowly remove the supports you provide as students are ready to do more on their own.  The key elements to the scaffolding are putting several steps in place to support the students in accomplishing the task independently and ASSESSING where the students are after each step to see when they are ready for the removal of a component of the scaffold.  Remember, removing scaffolding is a gradual process and will happen at different paces for different students.

When starting to design a unit, think about the steps you need to take to learn the material.  For each of those steps, design a plan to teach your students the skill, to allow them to practice the skill and to support the acquisition of the skill. 


A. Teaching students to use a Frank Dictionary: 

The first time we see it, I provide them with a chart, and we fill in the first few together. 


Page number

Hebrew definition

English definition

Structural use











The next time they see it, I give them page numbers and tell them which definition (if there are more than one) applies to our text.

The next time they see it, they can locate the page on their own, and find the right definition based on context.

Some students may not yet be ready to do the task on their own and may need you to continue to fill in components of the chart.

Some students may need you to do a few more with them until they have mastery over the task. 

B. A sequence for introducing a new skill:

1. Teacher models the task.

2. Teacher and class complete the task together.

3. Students complete the task in small groups.

4. Students complete the task independently.  

Note: This works for all age groups.  From teaching a new Hebrew letter to a Kindergarten class, through learning how to find where a sugya begins and ends for a High School class.

C. Teaching structure for a sugya of Talmud:

Students will be able to:

        Identify key terms of phrases in the text that indicate structure

        Divide a sugya into appropriate structural components

        Label each of those components. 

1. I give my students text already divided into structural components that are labeled appropriately and indicate the key terms, phrases or indicators of structure.

2. I assess to see if students have acquired the terminology, vocabulary and conceptual understanding that they need to complete the task on their own.

3. I slowly take away components for those students that are ready - first giving them the structure and the labels, but asking them to identify the terms or phrases in the text that indicate structure.

4. I then ask them to identify terms and label the structure, but I break the text into parts for them.

5. I ask them to do all three steps.     

D. What’s bothering Rashi?

Every step in the process of learning how to be an independent learner of parshanut is complex.  It is important to scaffold each step and assess students at the end of each step.

The initial instruction would require scaffolding through modeling, group practice and partner work.  But even as students understand the overall process, some may require continued scaffolding for the different steps in the process. 

Step 1- Exploring the pasuk - What does the pasuk mean, and what potential challenge do we see in the pasuk? 

Possible scaffolding:

Highlight the term or phrase where the problem lies.

Ask a question on the pasuk that leads students to the challenge.

Have them read additional psukim to give context to help them arrive at the challenge.

Give them a hint!

Step 2- Rashi’s answer - Understanding

Possible Scaffolding:

           Provide language assistance with key vocabulary, terms or maybe even English translation for some kids.

Break it into sections if it is long or has multiple components. 

Step 3- Rashi’s question - What is the problem that Rashi is trying to resolve?

Possible Scaffolding:

            Make the connection obvious between the challenge you came up with in the pasuk and Rashi’s answer.

            Give them a few options to choose from.

            Highlight a key section in Rashi’s answer that most directly speaks to the question.

Note.  This is a complex task and may be one that some kids in your class are not able to complete without scaffolding. 


  1(Dickson, S. V., Chard, D. J., & Simmons, D. C. (1993). An integrated reading/writing curriculum: A focus on scaffolding. LD Forum, 18(4), 12-16.)