Sentence Stems for Academic Discourse
Type of Activity:
Example, Subject Area and Grade Span: Any Subject, Grades K-12
What it is:
Academic discourse provides students with the language tools (vocabulary and syntax) necessary to competently discuss the topic using complete sentences. Structured dialogue in the form of “sentence stems” provides a scaffold for students to use and internalize academic language in useful context. Group and partner activities provide an opportunity for this important dialogue.
What it looks like:
- Model for students’ fluent use of response starters and have them repeat prior to their use in partner and group discussion.
- Examples of sentence stems:
- “The text is about…”
- “The main idea is…”
- “The most important details are…”
- “The text structure is…”
- “The text features include…”
- “To summarize the key ideas and concepts…”
- “I learned…”
- “My partner pointed out…”
- “My partner mentioned that…”
- “We agreed that…”
- “We decided that…”
- Pose a question to students for the purpose of partner/group discussion
(ex: “What are the most important details in this passage?”).
- In pairs, have students use specific “sentence stems” to support the use of academic language (ex. The most important details in this passage are...”).
- Have students write their responses in complete sentences using academic sentence stems.
How you know it’s working:
- Students use academic language when speaking and writing.
- Students respond and discuss in complete sentences.
- Develop a rubric to evaluate the effective use of academic language.
Things to consider:
- This is an effective strategy to support English learners.
- This strategy can be utilized across the curriculum.
- Partner students carefully according to their language needs.
Feldman, K., & Kinsella, K. (2005). Narrowing the language gap institute: Academic language and vocabulary development for all students PreK-12. San Diego, California.