In construction, a scaffold is a temporary structure used by workers to access heights and areas that are hard to get to. This is exactly what educators are doing when they scaffold for students. A child is having a hard time reaching a new height—understanding a concept, answering a question, or completing an activity—and the educator provides just enough support to allow the student to succeed. 

As part of the Quality of Feedback dimension within the CLASS® tool, we want to see that the educator provides feedback that expands learning and understanding. Scaffolding is an excellent strategy for supporting both individuals and an entire class and it can come in many forms. 

Let’s look at two scenarios seen often in a preschool classroom and different ways an educator could scaffold in each example. 


Scenario 1

A child is playing with blocks and is frustrated that the tower keeps falling down.

  1. Ask prompting questions: "What do you think would happen if we didn't build the tower quite so tall?"
  2. Give a range of possible answers to think about: If a child is having trouble coming up with an answer, the educator can provide multiple answers to choose from in order to help the child come up with a correct response independently. “Do you think we need bigger blocks at the bottom or should we make two smaller towers?” 
  3. Make suggestions: Offer hints or partial solutions that might solve the problem. “Your block tower keeps falling down. Do you want to try putting all the bigger blocks at the bottom?”
  4. Use a demonstration: The educator can simply sit and make his/her own version of a block tower to demonstrate how the blocks work best. 
  5. Provide physical support: Scaffolding can also take the form of physical assistance. educator can hold the blocks at the bottom to help the child stabilize the tower. 


Scenario 2

During story time, an educator uses scaffolding to help children think more deeply about the book.

  1. Ask prompting questions: "What made Sophie feel less angry?"
  2. Give an alternative question for children to answer: If none of the children's responses are correct, the educator may reframe the question in a different way. “Where did Sophie go after she tripped over the toy truck? What else did she do?” 
  3. Make suggestions: "I noticed that Sophie seemed calmer when she came back home. What did she do before she came back into the house?" 
  4. Use a demonstration: The lead educator and instructional assistant may act out different scenes from the book and ask the children how "Sophie" feels at each part. 


In each of these scenarios, the educator is allowing the child to perform at a higher level than they would be able to on their own. These same strategies work whether the child is stuck while counting, sorting, creating a plan, or opening a snack.