en  fr  de
  1. Startseite
  2.  > 
  3.  > 
    Programm 2016-2019
  4.  > 
    language in subjects
  5.  > 
    Step 2: Teaching
  6.  > 
    2. Scaffolding Techniques

Developing language awareness in subject classes

2. Scaffolding techniques
In classrooms, scaffolding can occur at all phases of learning, from the initial evaluation of learners’ knowledge and ability through lesson and task completion. Bruner (1983) gives examples of six different scaffolding means to be used by the teacher. These are summarized in the table below and adapted to a language aware subject matter:


What does the teacher need to do?

Planning the teaching unit (hard scaffolding)

Teaching the class
(soft scaffolding)


Get students interested in the task.

*Find problems connected with real life

*Explicit learning: state and explain both subject and language objectives in advance

*Be aware of the language needed to understand and follow task instructions

*Make students themselves discover the problems and the gap in their content and language knowledge on this topic.

*Take into consideration what the student already knows in the subject but also in his/her first or second language (L1 and L2)

*Ask students to repeat the task in another way, or in their L2

Reducing the degrees of freedom

Take over the parts of task that are more complex

*design ZPD integrated objectives

*Use clear instructions

*Avoid cognitive overload

*Divide the task or reduce it

*Give useful vocabulary, verbs and language structures

*Write models for the beginning of sentences that students will need to complete the task

*Ask students to think of ways of succeeding in the task including language goals: genre, tense… (see examples in the Tools)

*Help students to use clear, precise language when talking about the task

*Ask students to first answer orally or on the blackboard


Maintaining direction

Keep the learning on target.

*Regular feedback: give students a self-evaluation grid including language and subject goals

*Ask students to build their own self-evaluation grid (see models given)

*Give different kinds of feedback and do it frequently

*Provide student information on his/her performance

*Offer positive encouragement to the students 


Highlighting critical task aspects

Show the students the differences between what is expected and what they have done

*Give learning objectives for next lesson

*Show errors/ success

*Ask for others ways of solving the task / saying or writing the answer

Controlling frustration

Prevent the possibility of the student failing 

*Provide clues or suggestions but do not include the complete solution

*Check comprehension on a frequent basis

*Ask questions in a simple way

*Give sufficient time to answer


Provide behaviour which can be imitated including skill demonstrations.

*Give students written examples of good answers

*Show students how to proceed

*Give examples of good answers

*Allow students to look at models they have already built (see the Tools)

Here are some examples of scaffolding techniques that teachers reported using in an online questionnaire in spring 2016.