I know what you’re thinking! We already struggle within drill-based activities. How in the world are we supposed to help our students be successful in context?

The answer is scaffolding!

We can set our students up for success by providing them with optimal levels of support. Instead of selecting activities that students can perform successfully with little to no support, we select more functional activities and provide as much support as the student needs to be successful. The goal is to decrease that support over time.

The benefit of this approach is that we’re starting in a purposeful context. We’re preparing our students to use these skills in the classroom.

Now how do we do this?

There are two main types of scaffolds: structural and interactive (Ukrainetz, 2006).

Structural Scaffolds

With structural scaffolds, we plan ahead and make purposeful decisions about the context and materials. We can do this by…

• Establishing routines within the session/unit
• Carefully selecting treatment materials (e.g., content from the classroom)
• Using tools (e.g., visuals, pictographic sketching, semantic webbing, audio recordings)
• Modifying the order of presentation (e.g., starting with a complex activity, followed by a series of focused skill activities, closing with a complex activity that integrates targeted skills)
• Modifying the environment (e.g., providing therapy in a quiet room, adjusting the size of the group, providing compensatory tools in the classroom)
• Providing peer support

Ukrainetz, 2006

Interactive Scaffolds

Interactive scaffolds are more reactive. We respond to what is happening in the session in order to support students.

Ukrainetz (2016) divides this type of scaffolding into three categories (response, linguistic, regulatory). She provides an incredibly helpful breakdown of these strategies in her book, Contextualized Language Intervention.

Here are some examples of how I might use these scaffolds in a session with a group of 6th graders while targeting language skills in the context of a reading passage:

Regulatory Scaffolds

Regulatory scaffolds are intended to maintain student engagement.

• I start the session by reviewing the students’ goals (increasing their awareness). We may also highlight the importance of the goal, based on previous discussions.
• If we are starting a new unit, we discuss what we know about a topic, relating content to past knowledge.
• Throughout the session, I comment on student performance.
• If a student is distracted and/or struggling to sustain attention to the task, I provide redirection.
• We wrap up the session by reviewing the students’ performance.

Response Scaffolds

These scaffolds are intended to facilitate student responses.

Depending on the students’ level, I may model the response, provide part of the answer, ask leading questions, or point to a visual. I can also repeat and emphasize key points to lead the child towards the answer.

Linguistic Scaffolds

Check out this blog post for a review of linguistic scaffolds. (Scroll down to the Quick Strategy section.)

Which scaffolds are you using in your therapy sessions?


Hi there! I'm Marisha. I am a school-based SLP who is all about working smarter, not harder. I created the SLP Now Membership and love sharing tips and tricks to help you save time so you can focus on what matters most--your students AND yourself.

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