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How to Scaffold Assignments

Scaffolding will save you a lot of heartache and grief! All assignments need scaffolding. Scaffolding is simply providing all of the steps and supports necessary to ensure your students can complete a task. Scaffolding well is the difference between students mastering a skill and students struggling. It’s even the difference between great classroom management and poor classroom management. It’s beneficial to everyone to scaffold assignments well. Below are four steps I use when scaffolding assignments.

Step 1: Review your ultimate goal. What do you want your students to be able to do? An example, I want students to be able to write an essay.

Step 2: Next, determine what are the components of that goal? You students must be able to complete these tasks in order to get the assignment done. So if students are writing essays, they must know how to write introductions, body paragraphs, and conclusions.

Step 3: Determine whether or not there are any additional task components to the task components. This process begins to repeat—break everything down as far as it will go. An example, to write introductions, students must know the components of an introduction. Can the components of an introduction be broken down? Yep! One of the components of an introduction is a thesis statement, can you break thesis statement writing down? Yes! You continue breaking everything down until it is to the bare bones!

Step 4: Model instruction and create assignments around the task components that you’ve identified. For example, you may provide an essay assignment, then provide the entire class with instruction around thesis statement writing, or you may have to deliver workshops or mini-lessons around it. You have to be sure to address each component that you’ve identified as necessary in your instruction.

Tip: If you find yourself struggling with identifying task components, simply ask yourself, ”What do I need to know in order to do this?”

Tip: Ask yourself, “What types of questions will my students ask about this assignment?” The answer to this question will serve as information that should be covered during instruction or with mini-lessons.

Scaffolding has a simple formula, but it is a long, tedious process. Fortunately, it has a huge payoff in the end, so it is completely worth the time and effort!

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