10 Sentence Stems to Help Your Students Practice their Academic Conversations

If you’ve never used them before, sentence stems are a scaffold which help students respond to questions and prompts using complete sentences. They’re super simple tools to use and highly effective when it comes to getting your students to start having more academic conversations. As a bonus, when you provide this scaffold to your students, it takes off some of the pressure they might feel having to think of a unique way to respond every single time.

When using sentence stems in your classroom, you need to make sure they work for your students. Start by creating a list of sentence stems that include academic vocabulary and mimic sentence structures that are difficult for your students. Next, you’ll want to model the process for your students by showing them the sentence stems and where they might use them. Have your students then practice using the sentence stems by responding to questions or completing a written assignment. Finally, ask your students to share their complete sentences and add clarification as needed.

If you’re looking for ideas of sentence stems, start here with these 10 sentence stems to help your students practice their academic conversations:

Elaborating and Clarifying

  • I think it means that…
  • An analogy for this might be…
  • It’s similar to when

Often our students have trouble elaborating on their ideas or clarifying what they mean specifically. These sample sentences give your students the framework they need to elaborate on their ideas. When we use phrases like “I think” or “An analogy for…” we also establish that these points of clarification and elaboration are products of our students’ unique thoughts, not a textbook answer.

Supporting Ideas with Examples

  • An illustration of this could be…
  • To demonstrate this…

Supporting ideas with examples and evidence is a crucial part of our students’ academic journey’s. When our students have conversations in the classroom they might not always cite evidence. It’s a task that’s easier to do on paper in an essay than during a discussion. By asking students to follow these sentence stems you’re reminding them that academic conversations are based on evidence.

Building on Ideas

  • Then again, I think that…
  • I want to follow up on your idea…

We all have trouble building on ideas when we’re having academic conversations or engaging debates. It’s easy for us to continue to try and prove our own theories and opinions rather than use the evidence other classmates provide us to build our own arguments. However, as any good academic knows, the best ideas are those that are built upon others’ opinions, research, thoughts and data.

These sentence stems encourage your students to engage with their fellow classmates and create more complete, complex, ideas.

Paraphrasing

  • So you’re saying that…
  • Let me see if I understand you…

Paraphrasing information we receive is a critical skill. When we paraphrase information, we put the information we’ve learned into our own words. During academic classroom conversations, paraphrasing is a great way that our students can show they’ve been following along with the information and are understanding what’s being said by their fellow classmates.

Synthesizing

  • What if we…
  • The evidence seems to suggest that…

Classroom conversations can expand beyond their original points fairly quickly. As a result, our students can struggle to combine all of that information and understand what’s relevant and what’s not. By using these sentence stems you’re encouraging your students to wrap up a conversation by compiling and synthesizing what’s been said. The end result are conversations which build on your collective knowledge as a classroom.

Download your free copy of our sentence stems for academic conversations.

Kim Watts

Kim Watts

Kim Watts spent 21 years teaching middle school in both inner-city and affluent schools. During her time in the classroom, Kim taught English/Language Arts, brought AVID to her campus as a certified AVID teacher, and taught Capturing Kids’ Hearts Teen Leadership. Kim was the SIM Coordinator for her campus’ Literacy Leadership Team, helping them to implement a school-wide approach to improving literacy using the Strategic Instruction Model.

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