Approximate time to complete: 45 minutes 

Download the Course Companion document before starting this course. You can use the Companion Document to take notes on your learning, address reflection prompts and as an easy way to retrieve course resources.  

Course Objectives:

Participants will be able to...

  • Explain the significance of scaffolding and its importance for adolescent literacy 
  • Incorporate some common strategies for scaffolding in their classroom

Consider This Scenario

Connection Point

In your Course Companion Document, consider this question:  

  • Can you relate to this scenario? In what ways are your challenges in literacy instruction similar or different? 

High school science teacher Mrs. Wilson assigns independent reading material related to a unit on ecology to her students. However, she notices that the students struggle to understand the texts on the first read and many avoid the reading material altogether due to its difficulty. Mrs. Wilson knows that the texts contain valuable context and promote understanding for the concepts in the unit. She does not want to bypass the text by simply telling her students the information they need to know. What strategies could she incorporate into the planning and instruction of these complex texts to support students?

If you are struggling to help students read challenging, grade-level text, scaffolding can help. 

What is Scaffolding?

Scaffolding is the process of adding instructional supports for students to enhance learning and work towards mastery of skills or tasks. Teachers can provide support through scaffolding when introducing a new skill or strategy as well as when students encounter complex text. This support can be faded or removed as students progress toward mastering these tasks independently.

Scaffolding can occur before, during and after reading. The table below provides some strategies for scaffolding reading during each phase. 

Before Reading During Reading After Reading
Establish a purpose for reading the text.  Plan for places to stop and model your thinking process  Make connections to background knowledge and other texts in the text set 
Discuss the type of text / text structure.  How will this impact HOW we read the text?  Plan for places to stop and ask questions to check for understanding, make predictions, or discuss new information  Use graphic organizers (based on text structure) to review  
  • Story grammar
  • 2 column notes
  • Topic web
  • Cause Effect
  • Problem solution
Connect to background knowledge from other texts (videos, graphics, passages, artwork, images, etc.)  Point out signaling devices: 
  • Signaling words
  • Text features
Check for understanding:
  • Discussion
  • Questioning
  • Writing
  • Using evidence from the text
Pre-teach vocabulary critical for the passage.  Test predictions against the text   
Discuss language structure components that may be challenging for students.  Make connections to background knowledge and other texts in the text set  

Scaffolding Strategies with Dr. Dianna Townsend 

This video, featuring Dr. Dianna Townsend, describes the importance of scaffolding and some strategies for incorporating scaffolding into reading instruction. 

Knowledge Check

Take the following brief quiz to test your knowledge of scaffolding. Click the square button to expand the quiz. 


Review the following resource to learn more about scaffolding strategies to support adolescent students. This link is also available in your course companion where you can also take notes on this section.

  1. Achieve the Core’s resource on Supporting All Learners with Complex Text provides specific strategies to scaffold instruction of standards-aligned, complex texts and additional resources to support instructional planning.

Course Reflection

Answer the following questions in your Course Companion: 

  1. Consider the texts that are taught as part of your discipline or content area. In what ways are they challenging for students? How do you currently support them in their reading of these important texts?
  2. How can scaffolding support students’ purposes in reading complex texts across the disciplines?
  3. Think about an upcoming text that your students will engage with that is both important and potentially challenging. What before, during or after reading scaffolds could you plan as part of your instruction?

To Learn More

  1. Learn about three kinds of scaffolds used to support students in 8th grade science by examining this article published by the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA). Instructional Scaffolding to Engage All Learners in Complex Science Text.
  2. To learn more about scaffolding expository text, check out AdLit's Reading (and Scaffolding) Expository Texts
  3. The IRIS Center has a module called "What is Instructional Scaffolding?" in their course "Providing Instructional Supports." 


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Last Modified: 8/7/2023 4:49:20 PM