Scaffolding Writing Instruction for English-Language Learners


Teaching English as a second language encompasses various skills, one of the most crucial being writing. For English-language learners (ELLs), developing a strong foundation in writing is essential to both academic and professional success. Scaffolding writing instruction offers a systematic and supportive approach that helps ELLs gradually develop their writing skills. This article explores the concept of scaffolding, its importance, and practical strategies for scaffolding writing instruction in the classroom.

The Concept of Scaffolding

Scaffolding refers to the educational practice of providing guidance and support to students as they develop new skills, gradually reducing that support as they become more proficient. In the context of teaching writing to ELLs, scaffolding can help students build on their existing language skills while promoting independence in learning.

Importance of Scaffolding for ELLs

1. Reduces anxiety: Scaffolding reduces feelings of anxiety when faced with a seemingly difficult task by offering step-by-step guidance and feedback.

2. Boosts motivation: When students successfully complete various stages of a task, they feel more confident and motivated to tackle more complex tasks.

3. Encourages active learning: Scaffolded activities require ELLs to engage actively in the learning process, resulting in enhanced language development.

4. Supports differentiated instruction: The individualized nature of scaffolding makes it adaptable to suit different proficiency levels and learning styles among ELLs.

Strategies for Scaffolding Writing Instruction

1. Pre-writing support: Assist students in brainstorming ideas, creating outlines, or using graphic organizers to arrange their thoughts before starting the actual writing process.

2. Modeling: Provide model texts that demonstrate effective writing strategies or walk through examples to highlight particular goals.

3. Collaborative/group activities: Encourage students to work collaboratively on writing exercises, facilitating peer feedback and learning from one another.

4. Sentence starters or writing frames: Provide sentence starters or writing frames that students can build upon to draft their work. This helps them focus on specific language features and structural elements.

5. Feedback and revision: Regularly check students’ progress and provide constructive feedback on areas such as grammar, vocabulary, and coherence. Encourage revisions to develop their self-editing skills.

6. Gradual release of responsibility: As students become more proficient in their writing skills, slowly withdraw support while encouraging independent practice.


Scaffolding writing instruction for English-language learners is a powerful approach that fosters language development, promotes learner autonomy, and boosts confidence. By incorporating the strategies mentioned above, teachers can ensure that ELLs are well-equipped to excel in their writing endeavors, ultimately bridging the gap between language learning and academic success.