Effectively Scaffolding Instruction to Teach a Play

By David Kwan

Since we opened our Community Center back in November, we’ve been fortunate to have some really amazing educators share teaching ideas, resources, and experiences from their classrooms. Most recently, our Certified Educator Lisa Scumpieru, shared how she used a variety of technology to effectively scaffold instruction and teach a play to her 10th grade students.

The play was the famous greek tragedy, Antigone. While she had taught it in the past, she decided to re-think her approach for a couple reasons. For one thing, it was the first time she was teaching it to 10th graders and she wanted to ensure that her students were able to understand the text despite it being above grade level. For another thing, she wanted to help students truly internalize the skills they learned in analyzing the play and prepare them to confidently apply those skills to other challenging texts. As I watched her webinar, I was really impressed by the different ways she worked to accomplish her goals throughout the learning unit and effectively scaffolded instruction! You can watch her full session and check out the highlights below:

The Unit Plan

What I love about her unit plan is that it’s loaded with resources that help Lisa effectively scaffold her instruction. It’s also great how she shares it with her students in the form of a hyperdoc so that they can access those resources at any point during the learning unit. When she created her unit plan she planned backwards from the big concepts that she wanted her students to achieve:

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With those big concepts in mind, she started to help them build background knowledge by engaging them in a self-paced lesson to understand greek tragedies. She also gave them backstory by letting them reading a synopsis of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, which focuses on Antigone’s father and respond to guiding questions:

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In order to support her students in reading Antigone, she also also provided them with different resources for engaging in it. In particular, she included a study guide, Spark Notes, and even recorded a rap song in order to help her students connect with the main themes of the play. On top of that, she supported both her lower readers as well as English Language Learners with a graphic play that could help them understand the text:

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Integrating Formative

Lisa used Formative to teach the play by having students read a selection of scenes, answer questions based on them, and demonstrate their growing understanding of the larger message that Sophocles was trying to say about the Athenian government. By creating and engaging her students in the series of formatives, she effectively gave her students time to process the play and prepare for their formal assessment.

On the left below, she’s provided all links to the main learning activities that students can engage in over the course of the learning unit including the formatives. On the right, she’s also provided access to a folder with copies of all the formatives that she used:

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In the first formative that her students engaged in, they applied their understanding of background knowledge and terms in order to read the prologue. Lisa watched their responses to see where they got hung up so that she could support them early on and make sure they were ready to move forward:

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In this first formative, she also had them engage in an overarching question that would appear at the bottom of every subsequent formative in the series. She wanted to gauge their understanding of what the author’s overall message and encouraged them to draw mind maps, and insert screenshots to illustrate their understanding. Some of her students later asked to have the question type changed to “Short Answer” so that they could share their thoughts in writing as well:

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 For each successive formative, she would break up each scene into sections so that students could read a bit, take time to process the text, respond to aligned questions, and continue reading either as a class or independently. After reading, she would also project the responses so that she could highlight different responses. Certain students benefited from additional representations of the play so she inserted Youtube videos of specific scenes and cast her students to play different characters in video diaries :

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Bringing it All Together

In teaching Antigone, Lisa did a stellar job of providing different levels of scaffolding. She...

Antigone, the title character

Antigone, the title character

  • aroused interest, attention, and curiosity by first helping them understand it within the context of Sophocles other work and as a Greek Tragedy.


  • made the vocabulary memorable with her rap song and by having students pair up and complete Frayer models for new terms


  • engaged her students with the story by allowing them to draw personal connections with it (reading as a class, creating video diaries, recording scenes with iMovie for future students)


  • facilitated their initial comprehension by breaking up the text to give them time to process, respond to questions, and receive feedback. They could also go back and update their responses based on what they learned. In addition, she ensured that all her students (honors, ELL, on-track) understood the play by giving them different ways to interact with it (Graphic plays, video scenes).


  • allowed them to truly explore the issues at the center of the play.  Each lesson, they would start class with a warm-up question that got students thinking about themes of the play within the context of their own lives (Ex: Can people be cursed)


Every step she took to scaffold the play was ultimately in service of helping students internalize the big concepts of the learning unit and gain the confidence to tackle other higher texts. She set out to use Formative to watch where students struggle and support them so they could go out and conquer on their own. Mission accomplished!