Career and Technical Education Programs, Part 2

How to use Scaffolding to Support Multilingual Learners’ Participation in Secondary Career and Technical Education Programs

Part 2 of ​​​​​Supporting Multilingual Learners’ Participation in Secondary Career and Technical Education Programs Series

Part one of this series outlined the urgency around supporting Multilingual Learners (MLs) enrolled in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. You may be familiar with the terms English Language Learner (ELL) or English Learner (EL). ML is a more inclusive, assets-based term to represent all students whose parents or guardians report speaking one or more language(s) other than or in addition to English at home¹. In the first article in the series, I introduced Manuel, an ML enrolled in a Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management program at his local high school. Manuel brings many strengths with him to the classroom, including literacy in Spanish and a passion for the culinary arts. He has intermediate English language proficiency and is still acquiring the academic language needed to access all the course content. In this article, part two, I will define scaffolding and provide an overview of what it might look like to embed scaffolds into CTE curriculum and instruction to support a student like Manuel.  

How Can Scaffolding Support MLs in CTE Programs?

CTE classrooms include a hands-on approach to learning that tends to be concrete and provides immediate relevance for students. In addition, CTE programs provide regular opportunities for productive talk in which students are working together to solve a problem or create something, making these classrooms an ideal place to learn and practice language. These features of CTE classrooms can have a positive impact on language acquisition and should be leveraged. By adding scaffolds to instruction, schools and teachers can help MLs in CTE programs acquire academic language and reach their full potential.  

A scaffold is a temporary support provided by a teacher to a student that allows the student to perform a task they would not be able to do by themselves.

Scaffolds can help make rigorous CTE curriculum and assessment accessible to MLs at all stages of English language proficiency. The end goal of scaffolding is for the student to be able to perform academic tasks independently without the scaffold. Scaffolds include the teacher’s instructional practices, materials provided to the student, and the intentional and strategic grouping of students during instruction². Scaffolds should be provided to MLs based on each student’s individual strengths and needs, such as English proficiency level, home language literacy, and academic skills. Figure 1 outlines the different categories of scaffolds and examples of each.  

Figure 1. Categories of Scaffolds³

Categories of Scaffolds_SupportEd
​​​Culinary Scaffolding Example 

Manuel’s culinary class just began a personal recipe project. For the project, students have to research the history of a food dish that plays an important role in their lives and write an essay to describe what it means to their family or culture. Chef Natale, his culinary teacher, and Ms. Markus, his English Language Development (ELD) teacher, have been co-planning throughout the school year. For this project, they collaborated to embed various scaffolds into the project to support the strengths and needs of Manuel and other ML students in the class.  

Instructional Practices Scaffolds  

To begin, Chef Natale and Ms. Markus selected instructional practices scaffolds to support MLs in understanding the expectations of the project. These scaffolds included modified directions along with a sample completed graphic organizer and model essay. Ms. Markus helped Chef Natale modify the language of the directions, add visuals, and create a table outlining each step of the project. Then, they worked together to complete a model graphic organizer and write a sample essay. Ms. Markus encouraged Chef Natale to include a model of the final product, as this can be a great support to help MLs visualize what they are working towards. Chef Natale used these instructional scaffolds to introduce the project and kept them posted in the classroom for all students to reference throughout the scope of the project. Manuel found the model essay especially helpful when composing his own writing and found himself referring to it often. Additionally, other non-MLs expressed that they were appreciative of having a model to reference.  

Instructional Materials Scaffolds 

In order to support MLs in their research and independent writing, Ms. Markus and Chef Natale decided to include a graphic organizer for students to use to gather the information needed to complete their essays. The graphic organizer was chunked by topic and paragraph, providing students with a structure to support them in organizing the information into essay form. During his research, Manuel found the graphic organizer helpful as it kept him focused on the key details he needed to complete his essay.  

Figure 2. Instructional Materials Scaffold (Graphic Organizer)

Here you see a section of the graphic organizer for planning the introduction. Students use information from this section of the graphic organizer to compose an introduction to their essay.  

Instructional Student Groupings Scaffolds

As a final support, during co-planning, Ms. Markus emphasized the importance of instructional student groupings scaffolds for MLs. Over the course of the school year, she noticed how beneficial it was for certain MLs in the class to have the opportunity to work collaboratively in small groups. After discussing the strengths and needs of the MLs, the two teachers decided to utilize a teacher-led small group for selected MLs and a peer editing checklist with the entire class. Providing peer feedback is a skill that takes practice, and the class has been working on strengthening their use of peer feedback throughout the year. Structured peer editing routines support the use of instructional student grouping as a scaffold because it requires students to work with a partner to share and discuss feedback on their essays.  

Ms. Markus first pulled small groups of MLs at the beginning and intermediate stages of English language proficiency to provide individual modeling and support throughout the process of gathering information on the graphic organizer and then turning their ideas into an essay. She utilized the model graphic organizer and model essay during these small groups. Then, once all students had completed their first draft, Chef Natale introduced the peer editing checklist for students to review each other’s writing and provide feedback before publishing their final draft. Manuel noted that his small group time with Ms. Markus helped him compose a stronger essay and prepared him to use the peer-editing checklist.

Figure 3. Instructional Student Groupings Scaffold (Peer Editing Checklist)

The peer editing checklist includes items related to essay content, sentence fragments, capitalization, and punctuation, all of which the class had previously worked on and discussed. 

As educators consider how to best support the MLs in their CTE context, they can think about the types of scaffolds that align with the strengths and needs of the MLs enrolled in their classroom or school. In parts three and four of this series, I will explore five specific strategy recommendations for embedding targeted scaffolds into CTE curricula and instruction. For each strategy recommendation, I outline the reasoning for the recommendation and provide an authentic CTE program example. Be sure to take a look and use our Supporting MLs in Secondary CTE Programs Padlet for links to additional resources related to MLs and CTE. 


¹ Snyder, S., Staehr Fenner, D., Smith, S., & Singh, J. (2023, March). Terminology to describe multilingual learners: labels and their implications. SupportEd.

² Staehr Fenner, D. (June 8, 2018). Scaffolding Instruction for English Learners. SupportEd.

³ Staehr Fenner, D., Snyder, S., & Gregoire-Smith (forthcoming 2024). Unlocking Multilingual Learners’ Potential: Strategies for Making Content Accessible 2nd Edition. Corwin.

About SupportEd

SupportEd is a woman-owned business based in Fairfax, Virginia providing Multilingual Learner (ML) professional development, personalized coaching, technical assistance, and resources for educators across the United States and Canada. Founded in 2011 by Dr. Diane Staehr Fenner, four-time best-selling author and ML expert, SupportEd builds authentic partner relationships and meticulously crafts customized solutions to fit every partner’s strengths and goals. SupportEd equips teachers and administrators with the practical tools and strategies necessary to champion MLs’ success within and beyond the classroom. Visit or call (202) 660-1444 to learn more.

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