Sentence frames and stems are scaffolds that encourage students to start and structure written and spoken explanations.

Communication Modes Used by this Strategy


The Learning Benefits

Sentence frames and stems support development of foundational writing skills and vocabulary. Here are the key benefits:

  • Increase students' confidence and participation in class discussions and collaborative tasks.
  • Improve students' access to content language and their understanding of key academic concepts.
  • Help students to incorporate higher levels of academic language into their writing and speaking.

Classroom Tactics

Classroom discussion happens all day long, so it’s important to make sentence frames and stems easy to access. Here are some tried-and-true methods:

  • Post sentence starters around the room in a spot where students can easily reference them.
  • Provide a printed list of sentence starters specific to the assigned task.
  • Support student writing with graphic organizers that include sentence frames and/or stems.
  • 'After asking students a question, use a verbal sentence stem to model how to start a good response (i.e: "How would you explain the scientific method to a friend? The first step in the scientific method is...")

How Speak Agent Makes It Better

Speak Agent uses digital tools to enhance this strategy to incorporate listening, reading, and viewing, as well as writing and speaking. Learners first read and/or listen to a short passage to gain context clues. Then they use their writing and/or speaking skills to complete the explanation, with the help of visual aids and other embedded scaffolds.

Tall Tales is a sentence frames activity that is part of the Speak Agent Content+Language platform. Students complete a story by selecting academic vocabulary to fill in the frames. The stories include real-world scenarios that help students build comprehension of the content language as well as how to use the language in their writing.

Explain Your Work is a scaffolded writing activity. Students use this activity to explain their thinking in three steps: (1) Use visual aids to fill in sentence frames with academic vocabulary; (2) Complete sentence stems by typing responses; and (3) Write their own full written explanation with the help of audiovisual supports.

Science Notebook is an inquiry-based investigation and journaling tool. Students plan their investigations, log observations, upload images and audio recordings, add data, write claims, and write or speak their conclusions. Along the way, they are provided with sentence stems and frames to help them structure their ideas at every step.