How to Use Scaffolding to Improve Student Success in Online Learning

A young boy on a laptop at home with his teacher and classmates while his teacher is using scaffolding to improve student success in online learning.

As a teacher, have you found yourself frustrated with teaching new concepts online? You may want to try a teaching approach called scaffolding. 

 It is essential to engage students with online learning since we cannot see them face to face. There are many features you may not have tried within the online learning platform that can be beneficial. 

What is Scaffolding in Education? 

Scaffolding is when teachers break up learning concepts into chunks. And they also add additional resources and techniques to enhance learning. These additional resources help build onto what the child already knows.  


How to Use Scaffolding to Improve Student Success in Online Learning 


Breakout Rooms

One really great feature would be breakout rooms. This is where students can get 1:1 attention. Students can also use tools on the board, the chatbox, and video tools so the teacher can ensure they are paying attention and following along. 


One traditional scaffolding activity that I have included would be the use of centers. Centers were a big part of my life in the brick-and-mortar schools, and it was so fun to finally realize that I could use centers within my virtual classroom as well. 

Students can work together or independently when using centers. The students are engaged, and the teacher can gather data on who can complete the tasks. Centers can also help support students’ social-emotional growth. 

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More Examples of Scaffolding Activities

  • Play a game like “Simon Says” to learn the vocabulary words before reading. 
  • Have students create “scenes” from a story as a diorama or drawing to show their comprehension.
  • Create lapbooks on the current unit of study. 
  • Create open-ended questions to stop and ask during reading time to check comprehension
  • Break down an essay writing assignment into individual parts instead of giving the one big long task. 

Check out these diorama ideas for reading comprehension and these dioramas using shoeboxes.

Challenges with Scaffolding Online Versus the Classroom

Some challenges may include the lesson creation itself. Instead of printing various items, you may need to spend extra time preparing the lesson with: 

  • Moveable pieces
  • Texts
  • Additional worksheets 

Additionally, saving the work may be slightly challenging as you will need to save each student’s work rather than collecting worksheets at the end of the lesson. 

Approaches to scaffolding may be different online versus face to face because the teacher may feel it is a little harder to get to know their students and their abilities. However, when planning for scaffolding, it may be best to have everything in your lesson on different pages so that it is all in one spot in case you need to move forward or backward. 

Scaffolding Guidelines for Student Success

Students need to be shown how to use the tools online and how to engage in learning. It is vital to know where each of your students is to ensure that they get the support needed. 

It is also critical for parents and students to understand that they should not multitask or have other things open while in a live session or engaging in school work. Parents and students must know how to set schedules, agendas, and boundaries for online learning. 

It is important in the online environment to have many different tools and resources available, just like in the face-to-face environment. You may have various websites, worksheets copied onto the lesson, or a specific place where items are easily accessible during sessions. Being organized with resources and items is essential to running a successful online classroom. 



Additional Resources to Help Your Students With Online Learning

So many classrooms went virtual in 2020 due to the Pandemic. Most teachers had not been given instruction on how to make online learning work for them much less how to keep their students engaged. 

What have you found that helps your students see success with online learning? Share your experience in the comments.

Here are additional resources to help your students: 


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A young boy on a laptop at home with his teacher and classmates while his teacher is using scaffolding to improve student success in online learning.
It is hard enough to teach new concepts in the classroom for all learners but seems impossible in a virtual one. Try scaffolding!

Picture of Laura Young, M.Ed.

Laura Young, M.Ed.

One comment

  1. This is an insightful article! Online learning has certainly presented some challenges, but it is great to see some really actionable ideas on how to also find the opportunity. Thanks so much for sharing.

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