If you haven’t seen my various posts on Instagram about it (I’m a little obsessed), I’m currently going through the process of getting hired with VIPKIDS and teaching English online. During my training process, I was reminded of the importance of scaffolding in your ESL lesson plan. It is something that I have always used in my lesson planning. But teaching kids makes it so much more clearer in the lesson planning and execution process. I have been inspired to write about it because I had such a good example of it in my training. Scaffolding your lessons is a great way to ensure that the goals of the lessons are met and that students understand the concept being taught. So let’s jump in!
What is Scaffolding?
Scaffolding basically means to build on a concept in a lesson. So you first teach the student, then show them, and then have them do it themselves. It’s like having training wheels…you make the student feel comfortable and confident completing the task by showing them how to do it and then take the training wheels off and have them do it. For a more detailed description of scaffolding with examples and videos have a look at study.com’s Scaffolding in Education.
Why use scaffolding in your ESL Lesson Plans?
- It helps to check for understanding because students use the concepts in context.
- It gives students confidence because they are able to develop their skills at their own pace and are given the proper tools to do so.
- It helps teachers organize their lessons for better understanding and delivery.
VIPKID calls it I do, We do, You do. This is a great technique to help students learn a concept and gives them the confidence to complete the exercises by first being shown, then trying it together, and then finally with practice to do it on their own. It ensures that students understand, learn and use the concept effectively. I have a feeling I’m going to become a master of this as I continue teaching with VIPKIDS.
How do We Use it in our Teaching?
Let’s break down the scaffolding technique and apply it in a lesson. This is only one example of many ways you can include scaffolding in your ESL lesson plan. But the main technique is to build the lesson so that the student has steps to reach the end goal.
In the example below (which I’ve taken from my VIPKID Mock Class). I’ve been teaching it a lot and the more I taught it the more I could really see how the lesson was built and the steps it takes to reach the end goal.
Lesson Goal: Students are introduced to, practice, and apply the vocabulary ball.
1. Present and Practice (I do)
First, the teacher presents the language and students practice it. This is the first step and is teacher-led. In this slide, I introduce the word first and make sure they understand the meaning of “ball” (circle the picture, show them a ball etc.) and then introduce the sentence again repeating the sentence with actions to help with understanding. To check that they understand the meaning of the word ball, have them circle the ball.
2. Introduce the Question to Interact with the Vocabulary (We do)
For the second part, I want to now introduce the question to the student with the vocabulary words and sentences. In this next slide I will ask the question “What is this?” and circle the ball. This is the next step in having the student recognize the vocabulary and allows me to introduce the question with it. The student doesn’t have to fully understand the question, but they will know I am asking about the ball because I’ve circled it.
Next, I ask the question to elicit the answer “He plays with a ball”. The teacher asks: “What does he play with?” and answers “He plays with the ball” (Modelling for the student). Then the teacher asks the question again and has the student answer “He plays with a ball”. Then try the same thing with the next picture, asking the same question with the answer: “She plays with a ball”.
This is the next step to introduce the question and answer practice with the vocabulary “ball”, but the teacher and student do it together.
3. Students Produce the Vocabulary When Prompted (You do)
For the third part of the lesson, we now want to let the students answer on their own. Because we have already introduced the question in the last slide, they should now be able to answer without prompting (of course if they need help give them prompts, but try without first!).
What I have done in the previous slides is to introduce the question right away with the vocabulary word and sentence to get the student familiar with the question first. That way they can connect the answer with the question at this point in the lesson.
So the goal for this last slide is to have them use the vocabulary in a question and answer format. “What does he/she play with?” to get the answer “He/She plays with a ball”.
For this slide, the teacher asks the question “What does he play with? (circling the boy with the soccer ball) and hopefully, the student can answer the question with “he plays with the ball”.
Examples of Scaffolding
The example I have provided above is for a lower-level student and gives you the basics of how you can scaffold your ESL lesson plan to build up to the end goal of producing the vocabulary.
This example helps to break down the concept of scaffolding into simple, digestible chunks. Again, this is just one way you can scaffold your lessons. I was inspired by the feedback I got from my first mock class and really thought it might be a helpful reminder to teachers if you’re struggling with teaching a concept and need an idea of how to break it down so that students can understand it and learn in small chunks.
Scaffolding in a Nut Shell
To sum up, scaffolding, start with a simple concept and then build on it until you teach the student how to interact with the vocabulary and sentences to reach the desired outcome/goal set for your lesson.
- Model and demonstrate for the student
- Have them practice with assistance
- Have them do it on their own.
For more examples of scaffolding read this article from We Are Teachers.
Another form of scaffolding can be seen in the Present Practice Produce method of lesson planning. You can find more information about how to plan a lesson using that method HERE. (This is a more advanced example)
If you’re interested in getting TEFL certified or for more specialised training, have a look at the certified courses offered through Premier TEFL