Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Winter Edition: Using Sentence Frames to Help Struggling Writers Make Sentences

The one skill that seems to be the most difficult for ESL and low performing students is writing. The hardest part is getting them started. I have always used themes to get my students to write for several reasons:

  1. It is a topic that they are learning about.
  2. They have lots of new vocabulary words in their word bank.
  3. They have talked about the topic during Read Alouds.
  4. They have read books at their reading level about the topic.
Writing should begin as a Teacher-Directed activity with lots of guided practice to help students become more independent writers. Of course learning to write a complete sentence is the first step. I like to start with a Whole Class Activity. I also want to get 100% participation so I can informally assess who understands and who needs more help. I make a set of the frames (parts of the sentences) for each student. I cut out the 3 cards for each student to have as I am modeling the parts of the sentence. (You can read more by clicking Here)

Then I write a sentence like the following one on a sentence strip and place it in a pocket chart.
                  The girl is running on the playground.                        
I would tell my students that this is a complete sentence because it has a Who, Is Doing, and a Where. 
Every sentence needs all these parts to be complete.
  • The Who or What describes the subject of the sentence.
  • The "is doing" or "did" describes the action of the subject( The Who or What)
  • The "to whom or what", "where", "when" or "how" tell us more about the subject or the action.
  • Ask your students what part of the sentence "The girl" is by showing the correct frame card. (The Who or What)
  • Then ask them what part of the sentence "is running" is. (is doing or did) Ask them to hold up the sentence frame part.  Ask them if they can see the action the girl is doing? Then ask them if they can show you "is running?"
  • Then ask them what part of the sentence is "on the playground" is (Where) and hold up the sentence frame part. Ask them to close their eyes and listen to the sentence. Can you see the girl running on the playground. 
  • Now say: The girl on the playground. Ask them if that is a sentence? Hopefully they will say that it isn't and then ask why? It is missing the action part.
 Copy and cut out the following cards. Place them in a different order in the pocket chart: 
in his notebook is writing The boy.

Hold up different parts but not in order. Then hold up each card and ask the students to hold up the sentence frame part. After all 3 parts the sentence should be:
                           The boy is writing in his notebook.

Don't forget to talk about the correct Capitalization and End Punctuation.

You can continue with a longer sentence depending on your students' writing ability. 

    Now they are ready to write and illustrate a sentence about the theme "Winter. " 

                                                The boy is playing in the snow.

I like my students to illustrate their sentence to assess comprehension. If your students need more practice before doing this writing activity say each sentence part and have them hold up the sentence frame to make sure they understand what they need to do. This is the time to walk around the room to make sure they understand the task. 

Finally they are ready for independent practice: 

You can download this free activity packet by clicking on the Picture below.

You will also find lots more writing sentence activities in my new "Wonderful Winter Literacy Centers: Grades 1-2"

It has 9 Literacy Centers, 2 Whole Group Activities and 2 Assessments which are all Common Core Aligned. Just click on the picture above to download the Preview to see all the materials and activities in this packet.There is also an all new revised  Reading and Writing Packet which includes a Shared Reading Book, Guided Reading Books and Writing Activities at 3 differentiated levels. Just click on the picture below to download the Preview to see all the activities included. 

Thanks for all you do to make a difference for your students. Hope you have a wonderful holiday break.

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What resource or activities do you use to get your students started with writing sentences?


  1. This is great Arlene! Thanks for sharing your knowledge! :)

    First Grade and Fabulous

  2. Thanks DeAnne. I appreciate your feedback.

  3. Wow! I'm sharing this post on "learning twice," my blog at today. Thank you so much for your generosity!

  4. Thanks Nancy- we have soooooo much in common. Will check out your blog ASAP. Thanks for following me.

  5. Thank you SO much for these. I am having some difficulty with a few of my kiddos, and this is PERFECT for practicing the concept of complete sentences. AWESOME!!!!

  6. So happy that this will help your students. Happy New Year!

  7. Arlene, thanks for linking up such a helpful post with a great share!
    Ѽ Lori
    Teaching With Love and Laughter

  8. Thanks for this great post! I always struggle with teaching writing to my Kindergarteners. Have you used this with Kindergarteners? Thanks!