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Sentence Stems

This technique gives students the opportunity to respond in the form of a complete sentence to effectively communicate. Sentence stems provide scaffolding to help students get started in speaking or writing without the added pressure of thinking about how to correctly formulate a response.

How to use

1. Create

Create a list of sentence stems that are appropriate to the discussion or task you are setting the students. Be sure to provide stems that use academic language or sentence structure that is difficult for the students.

2. Model

Review stems with students and provide some examples of how to complete the sentence stems. 

3. Practice

Pose questions or a set a writing task for students. In pairs or independently, have students use sentence stems to respond.

4. Review

Ask students to share their sentences. Add any clarification where needed.

When to use

Use Sentence Stems at any point in the lesson to structure meaningful conversation.

  • Before introducing new material to tap into prior knowledge (Example stems: I understand that ….; I already know that…)
  • When trying to work through a problem.  (Examples: It would be easier if….; First, I…)
  • After reading a short text to begin a discussion (Examples: The main points were….; I read that…)
  • Responding to a peer discussion (Examples: My partner pointed out ….; I agree because…)
  • When re-enforcing the use of academic language (Example: The text structure is ….; I use the denominator of …)


Sentence Stems Roundtable

Prepare a list of unfinished sentences and give one copy to each student in class. Allow 10 minutes or so for students to complete the sentences in writing, using true facts from material they’ve read or learned about recently. Students then partner up and share responses. Ask them to rotate after a set amount of time and share with a new partner.

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