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Espresso Shot: Setting the Scene for Halloween

BOO! Halloween is almost here and the ladies of The Secondary English Coffee Shop have come together to share some creative ideas on how WE set the scene for Halloween in our classrooms! Here are a few simple, but fun ways how we like to incorporate Halloween into our classrooms.

To bring a little Halloween spirit into the classroom, I give each of my students a Halloween-themed bookmark! If you can print them out on card stock paper, they will last longer! I also use orange-colored paper, too! These FREE bookmarks are a simple and easy way to get your students excited for the upcoming season!



I love to play spooky Halloween sounds and dim the lights as we work on Halloween Writing! If you can find electric candles that flicker they can be a fun and safe addition to your room. I also make a trip to the dollar store to grab some Halloween pencils and erasers. I print out some themed paper and we have fun writing Halloween haikus, coming up with the worst opening line for a scary story and creating spooky settings using vivid words. Even my senior students have fun!!


Get students' spooky creativity flowing with "Scary Six-word Horror Stories." Simply hand out appropriately fall-themed scraps of paper (think oranges and reds) along with thick markers. Then instruct students to think of a truly horror-story-worthy situation (you can even hint that these could be humorous). Instruct students to then write this out in exactly six words: no more, no less! Stick them up for a fun Halloween week display!
A fun activity for students to complete during the Halloween season is rewriting one of their favorite horror stories, but for an audience of children. This activity forces students to think about their audience and make conscientious writing decisions that are specifically targeted toward children. Students might need to change a character or conflict slightly, or they might need to make adjustments to the setting. However they alter the story though, students will be thinking about plot, characterization, conflict, setting, and audience while having a ghoulishly great time.
We love dressing up at our school for Halloween. The students love to see their teachers in a different light and it's a great way to show our creativity. If your school doesn't allow dressing up, try approaching the idea from a curriculum standpoint: famous characters from literature day! One of my favorite costumes to construct and wear was Scout's ham costume from To Kill a Mockingbird. We also had a lot of students dressing up as characters from The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and even some Stephen King novels (both Carrie and IT have made appearances). It's a fun way to promote literature while getting the students excited about Halloween.
Help your students improve their descriptive writing by bringing in some Halloween candy, chocolate, and/or chips. Give each student an item and have them write a paragraph that uses strong imagery to describe the appearance, taste, texture, and smell of the treat.

You can also make this a competition by putting students into groups and having them write a paragraph collaboratively. Each group can present their paragraph while YOU eat the snack they are describing. Whichever group you decide described the treat most accurately gets to have the leftover treats. They practice their writing and you get to eat Halloween candy; it sounds like a win-win to me ;).

I'm not as headlong into holidays as some of these other fabulous Coffee Shop ladies, but I have to do at least one thing, right? ;) One of the ways I work a little Halloween in is reading "Masque of the Red Death" and teaching about symbolism using Tootsie Roll Pops. It's pretty much the best lesson of the year when you give students candy and tell them it's time to ANALYZE it. Hah!
I always get my kids to write a scary story - it's an engaging way to get them to work on their narration and description skills. To set the scene and give them some inspiration, I begin with a few short YouTube clips that you can access HERE. Grab my FREE Spooky Story Graphic Organizer HERE to help you get started!

I love “The Raven”, but it’s not an easy poem at first, so I’m using stations to help students identify literal and figurative meanings in the text, including allusion and structure. I can’t wait to introduce my middle schoolers to Poe!


Share your favorite ways to set the scene for Halloween below!                    
We'd love to hear from you!

Simple Steps for Effective Lesson Planning

Whether your lesson plans are detailed multi-page documents submitted to your administration each week, or they’re mostly post-it notes with concise bullet points, effective lesson planning requires strategy and intent. Great lessons need clear direction, purpose, pacing, and solid pedagogy. (Side note: If you are looking for engaging step-by-step lesson plans for the ELA classroom – especially for sub plans – check out my ELA Lessons Bundle with over 60 individual plans). 

While planning such successful, well-balanced, dynamic lessons takes time (think of all those observation lessons), if you get into a strong habit of working through a few key steps, it simplifies the whole process. And, as with all habits: the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Soon you internalise the steps and find yourself doing them without even realising it. 

Below are the four simple steps - G.A.D.E - I go through in my mind every time I plan a lesson. Do I always write them out in detail? Nope, but I still always work through them as I plan.

What do you want students to be able to do, know, or understand by the end of the lesson?

The most effective way to plan a route for a journey, is to start with knowing where you are trying to get to, right? Instruction is most effective when you, and your students, have a firm idea of the goal. When they know what they are working towards, the lesson is far more purposeful. Your goal should be able to be expressed in a single sentence or two: the more focused it is, the easier it is for students to digest and understand. I even suggest writing this on the board at the start of the lesson, for students to be able to see and reference.

Examples of Goals:
- Students will understand the impact of varying sentence patterns, in term of creating tone.
- Having read chapter 5 of The Great Gatsby, students will be able to explain how an author develops a character in a narrative through the use of indirect characterization.
- Students will be able to effectively back up their thoughts and ideas with appropriate textual evidence.



How are you going to break down the substance of the lesson, to help students reach the goal?


This is the nuts and bolts of the lesson: the lecture, activities, exercises, etc. Ask yourself: What are the most effective methods to help guide students to the goal: A lecture? A group discussion? A reading exercise? Worksheet practice? A video? A writing exercise? Station work? The key here is breaking the lesson down into varied, manageable chunks: rarely should you plan a 60 minute lesson with just one single activity. You want to think about dividing the class up into 10-20 minute segments with varied activities and modes of learning: all geared towards the overall goal. 

Examples of Segments for a 60 minute lesson:
5 min: Provocation - some sort of hook for the lesson to pre-test knowledge, or incite intrigue and interest. 10 min: Paired work 15 min: Teacher-led lecture and discussion 20 min: Individual work to practice a skill 10 min: Reflection and assessment of learning


How will you, and your students, know if they have achieved the goal? 
This does not always have to be a large assessment task: that would perhaps be a unit goal. However, you should be able to place small milestones in every lesson to assess whether or not students are gaining knowledge, or developing their skills, and this need to be intentional. It may be a summative assessment task, but in the daily lesson it would likely be formative assessment. This should be a conscious decision when planning the lesson.

Examples of Opportunities for Demonstrations of Learning:
- Ask strategic questions: “How do you know that? Why did you write that?”
- Use exit slips
- Have students produce something which requires them to use what they have learned
- Anonymous class polls or quizzes (or Kahoots!)
- Self-reflections or evaluations
- Written work / Projects


What do you physically need to do, to facilitate the learning?  
Once you know the purpose of the lesson, and have a firm understanding of the activities and elements of the lesson, think about what you need to do to prepare. While this might be gathering resources, photocopying, finding passages, etc., it also should be about the space of the classroom: how best to facilitate the most effective lesson for your purpose. Think about desk layout, visual displays, seating arrangements, etc. 

Example of Environmental Elements
- Move the desks into groups / pairs / individual etc.
- Print, layout and organize materials
- Have a specific song playing which relates to the lesson, for when students enter.
- Create spaces around the room for station work or gallery walks etc.



FREE TEMPLATES:
If you are looking for a template for lesson planning:
Do also check out:
If you are looking at planning a whole unit of study, read this great post by The Daring English Teacher.





6 Tips for Building and Using Lit Kits in your Classroom

As an English teacher and a high school librarian I want to instill a true love of reading in my students.  I want students to find a book that they can connect with and fall in love with.  Nothing makes me happier than having a student tell me that the book I recommended was the first book they enjoyed.

The other English teachers and I have worked really hard to develop a set of Lit Kits for each grade level at our school.  It's been a process of trial and error and we have switched out titles through the years and updated the kits as books get lost or damaged.  In general, each kit has 5-7 titles and 5-6 copies of each title.  There are 30-32 books in each kit.  I preview / 'book talk" each book for my students and then let them pick any book from the kit.

The primary focus for using the kits is ENJOYMENT and promoting a LOVE OF READING.  We give students time each class to read and do not require daily summaries, lit logs or a reading journal. We monitor accountability through group meetings.  Students who are reading the same title meet once a week to discuss their book.  I give my students book marks and on the back they can jot down ideas for their discussion as they are reading.  Grab a FREE set of bookmarks HERE.


1.  PICK BOOKS YOU KNOW YOUR STUDENTS WILL LOVE
This is key! These kits are not about the books that kids should read, but rather the books you know they will WANT to read.  I pick books I know that my students will love and my list might end up being very different from your list. I have a variety of genres in each kit.  Grab a list of the Lit Kit books I use HERE Keep in mind what my students enjoy, might not work for yours.

2.  INCLUDE AT LEAST ONE NON-FICTION BOOK
All of our kits have a non-fiction book that my students can choose.  It is amazing how many of them have never read a non-fiction book and it is wonderful how many are surprised to find themselves enjoying it as they read.  Often, once they read one non-fiction book, they'll end up reading many more in our collection.

3.  INCLUDE BOOKS OF VARYING LEVELS
It is important to provide a variety of levels of books - at least one lower level book and at least one higher level book.  (This will really vary depending on your students.)  Students need to feel like there's at least one book that's accessible to them in each kit.  When I preview / book talk the books to the kids I usually say something along the lines of "If reading isn't your favorite thing to do..." or "If you don't have a lot of time for reading right now..." or "If you're looking for a more challenging read...".  I just like to give the students options but I do not want to assume that I know what book is best for them.  Student choice is paramount to the success of the Lit Kits.

4.  DIVERSITY MATTERS!
It's important to me that my students see themselves in the books they read, so as much as possible I include books that represent a diverse range of authors and characters and will appeal to kids from across a wide spectrum.  As a Canadian teacher I also try to highlight Canadian and Indigenous authors and stories.

5.  MAKE IT ALL ABOUT THE LOVE OF READING
I give the students class time to read, class time to discuss and class time to think about a final project.  I do not require daily summaries or reflections, but I do ask each group to present to the class their review of the book (without giving away the ending!). These book reviews are an informal presentation - every member of the group must contribute something, they have to share the theme, and what they did or did not like about the book.  Because of the book review presentations students often ask to read other titles from the kit when they are done with their original book.

6.  STUDENT ACCOUNTABILITY
I know many of you are reading this and thinking... but what if the students don't read the book? How do you know they have read it?  I monitor the students' weekly discussions with their group and can easily figure out if someone hasn't read the book just be eavesdropping.  I have read most of the books in the kits so a quick conversation will also let me know what is going on.  IF students are NOT keeping up with their book I can have a chat with them and figure out what their challenges are.  If necessary we can switch books or I can find a way to help them get where they need to be. If you are required to have students keep a reading log or reading journal check out my Reading Journal for ANY Novel Study and Lit Circles.

 I think the key to success with Lit Kits is giving students CHOICE and having a project to wrap up their reading.  I like to let my students know their options as we START reading so that they can keep it in mind as they are working through the novel.  We either do a NOVEL INQUIRY PROJECT or use one of the PROJECTS for ANY NOVEL that I have created.

THE NITTY GRITTY
We store our Lit Kit collections in large plastic containers that are labelled with the grade level and kit number.  We have color coded each grade and have therefore color coded each book.  For example all of our 10th grade books are coded with blue stickers and then number according to which kit they belong to.  We have 6 kits for 10th grade so a book with a blue sticker and a #4 is from 10th Grade Lit Kit 4.

Also check out the great ideas from my fellow Secondary English Coffee Shop colleagues that can be used with ANY NOVEL.


HAPPY LIT KIT BUILDING!





5 Reasons to Incorporate Exit Tickets Into Your Classroom Routine


Hello teachers!
Brittany from The SuperHERO Teacher's Resources here to talk all about why you should incorporate exit tickets into your daily classroom routine. If your teaching style is anything like mine, you love spontaneity in the classroom just as much as you love a solid classroom management plan that paves the way for an engaging and innovative lesson.  My first couple of years teaching, I struggled to find the balance between fun and focus.  I honestly wasn't sure if it was possible to have both-- until I began incorporating exit tickets.  You're probably thinking: "wait-- I thought exit tickets assessed student comprehension"-- and you would be right, but they also help with SO much more.  Let me explain! 

1. Exit tickets are a classroom management miracle.
I am not even exaggerating when I say incorporating exit tickets will transform your classroom management.  Picture this: it's the end of a class period and you just finished up the best lesson of your career... 5 minutes early... You start to notice students packing up, fidgeting, and then the sweet student who loves discussing the daily lunch menu breaks out into chatter with the person next to them.  Soon, every student in the room is in a debate about whether square pizza or chicken nuggets are better (square pizza, obviously)! It's stressful and nearly impossible to avoid... that is, without exit tickets! If your students know they have an exit ticket prompt they have to complete before they can leave the classroom, they will remain focused on the task at hand and there won't be time for the excess chatter that inevitably occurs moments before the bell rings. Exit tickets are a classroom management hack that students will be oblivious to.  It's not a punishment, it's a routine that is developed to track their comprehension and growth... It just so happens to also prevent them from focusing on the distractions around the room.


2. Exit tickets create student routine. 
Classroom routine and classroom management kind of go hand in hand, in my opinion.  If a routine is developed from the beginning, your classroom management will be in tune.  When I used exit ticket and bell ringer journals in my classroom, the students knew the moment they entered my classroom that they had a 5 minute bell ringer prompt to complete and at the end of class they were to reflect on the lesson by completing a 5 minute exit ticket prompt.  Developing these daily routines allowed me the opportunity to be more spontaneous and exciting in my lessons and delivery. Using an exit ticket journal, like the one linked here, gives you all of the prompts you'll need for an entire year, taking the stress of developing them off your shoulders.



3. Exit tickets assess student comprehension. 
The most common reason teachers use exit tickets is their ability to assess student comprehension in a quick, simply way. In five minutes or less, teachers can determine whether their lesson is successful or if there needs to be some re-teaching the following day. Exit tickets don't have to be in a question format either-- they can be visuals, graphs, images and more, which will help meet the learning styles and expectations of each student in your classroom.  You can test out an entire week of exit ticket prompts using the freebie I designed from one of my Exit Ticket Journals.  Simply click here, download the free resource and share with your students.

4. Exit tickets track student growth.
Tracking growth is important for both you AND your students. When students have a moment to reflect on their comprehension of a lesson, they can process where they may be struggling or excelling in your class. If you're using something like an exit ticket journal, students have the ability to go back and see how far they've grown from the beginning of the school year, which can serve as motivation and inspiration to continue working hard throughout the school year.  These simple prompts provide students with a visual representation of their progress in your class, whether it's a unit or an ongoing theme over the course of an entire year.


5. Exit tickets help teachers reflect on their teaching practices. 
Reflecting on our own teaching practices is equally as important as helping students reflect on their progress! However, I think we all know how time consuming it is to do a pre-test and post-test for every single unit or lesson.  Exit tickets can be assessed in seconds, especially visuals.  For example: if you asked students to shade in their understanding of the day's lesson on a bar scaled 1 to 10 and you see that most students shaded in 5 or less, you'll know that re-teaching needs to occur the following day. While you may have days that students are confused or lacking comprehension, you'll also find exit ticket responses to be rewarding-- because you'll see the positive things they take away from your lessons, too!

Looking for an entire year of exit tickets? Check out my Exit Ticket Journal here.
Download two free weeks of exit tickets here! 

These resources are also incredible for incorporating exit tickets:
1. Growth Mindset Exit Tickets from The Daring English Teacher
2. Formative Assessment Power Pack from Room 213
3. Exit Slips for Any Subject from Presto Plans
4. English Bell Ringers and Exit Tickets from Tracee Orman

Have a fabulous day and keep changing lives!


3 Tips to Prevent Challenges to Your Curriculum

Banned Books Week

Imagine being so excited to introduce your favorite novel to a new group of students only to have a student say, "My mom said I can't read that book."

It's every teacher's fear to have a parent or community member question what you are teaching. Unfortunately, opposition to the reading material we select for our classrooms and libraries is so popular, a week was created in the 1980s to advocate for and educate the public about challenged and banned books. September 23rd kicks off this year's Banned Books Week.

During the sixteen years I taught in my last school district, two books were formally challenged by groups of parents. One group of junior (grade 11) parents opposed Robert Cormier's We All Fall Down because of its "inappropriate language" and depiction of teenagers doing "immoral" things.

Five years later, another group of parents of elementary-aged students opposed the read-aloud of Todd Parr's The Family Book during Tolerance Week because of the line "Some families have two moms or two dads." The parents believed it was "pushing a gay agenda."

Banned Books Week

Can you guess which one was banned? Probably not the one you thought...

In 2012, The Family Book was permanently removed from the elementary library and the curriculum for Tolerance Week (ironic, right?). We All Fall Down was retained in 2007 after a select committee deemed it to be age-appropriate. It is still taught in grade 11.

We had two different outcomes because the new (at the time) administrators were unaware of the proper procedure put in place five years earlier. Instead, they left the decision up to the school board who voted to ban The Family Book from the elementary and all GLSEN materials from being used in the entire district. Their decision was--and still is--a shameful embarrassment for our district that could have easily been prevented.


In recognition of Banned Books Week, I wanted to share my experience and tips for preventing a book (or any material) from being challenged AND what you can do if a parent or community member does challenge it.

1. BE TRANSPARENT
Let your students and parents know at the beginning of the year which novels, short stories, plays, poems, nonfiction passages, movies, etc. your students will cover throughout the year. Distribute a paper copy (as part of your syllabus) and post it on your website; make it easy for parents and students to find. This way if anything is questioned, you can point out that you informed students and parents at the beginning of the year what was going to be covered.

2. ASK PERMISSION
Send home a permission slip before reading or viewing material that could be questionable. In your permission slip, state your objectives for the unit or lesson and explain how the material you are reading or showing is vital to the learning process. Let the parent/guardian know that if permission is not granted, an alternative book or material that covers the same learning standards will be used in its place for their child. This will alleviate students trying to use the permission slip as a way out of doing the work altogether. You can download a free permission slip template here.

Free Download Editable Permission Slip

3. RAISE AWARENESS
I began celebrating Banned Books Week in my high school classroom after We All Fall Down was challenged to educate students about their freedom to read and the danger of censorship. I have an activity where students can choose if they want a piece of candy or a carrot stick for a snack. Halfway through the activity, I stop and take all the pieces of candy back and let them know that I forgot that I had received a complaint from a parent (or community member) about the dangers of sugar, so no one gets to choose candy. This sparks a great discussion about how one complaint affects the freedom of choice for all students.


  One of my favorite displays to coincide with this activity is an interactive bulletin board showing the reasons a book was challenged or banned. Students lift the flap to reveal the title. They are always shocked to see the titles of some of their favorite books revealed. I will also select books from my classroom library and wrap them with the Caution Labels. The curiosity alone is enough to make a student want to check out a book labeled "Drug use, profanity, offensive language, and considered 'pervasively vulgar'" (which are the reasons The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas has been challenged).

The Hate U Give - Banned Books Week


While these measures will help prevent some challenges, you may still encounter opposition in your district. When I began teaching and selling materials for The Hunger Games in 2009, I soon realized that opposition to certain books was far too common. Teachers began reaching out to me asking what they should do when parents complain about the book. Here is the advice I shared with them; it applies to any curriculum, whether it is a book, video/movie, poem, short story, etc.


Find out from your building principal if your school has a plan in place and what it is. If not, follow these steps to be prepared before it happens:

HAVE A PLAN: 
Know exactly what to do when a parent/guardian or group/organization comes forward with a complaint. For instance, if talking directly to the parent/guardian and offering an alternative for the student doesn't work, take the next step and contact your department head and building principal. From there, an example procedure should be handled by the principal and/or department head and may include the following steps:

   1. Send the parent/guardian/group a formal letter asking if they wish to file a formal request for reconsideration of the material being taught. Include a reconsideration request form in the letter (see below) and give a deadline for when it needs to be filled out and returned to the principal (10 days seems standard).

  2. Have a committee in place for handling the request. This committee should be appointed by the principal and may include an administrator, a classroom teacher, a language arts teacher or reading specialist, a librarian, a community member, and a student. The committee will meet and discuss the request. They will also need to be familiar with the material being challenged (whether it's a book, video, etc.). After reviewing both sides (the teacher's and the parent/guardian/group's), the committee will make a final decision on whether the material(s) should be removed or not.

  3. Make sure the procedure is part of the school's handbook and/or posted publicly (i.e. on the school's website) so future administrators and teachers are aware of the proper protocol. Have copies of all documents ready to download and distribute, if needed. (See below for free editable forms.)

This plan is based on the American Library Association's (ALA) advice for schools and libraries facing a challenge. You can find numerous resources on their website.

I have also created editable documents based on their drafts that you can download here.

banned books week

Most importantly, do not let a challenge get you down. One or two or even a group of parents challenging the materials in your classroom in no way reflects your teaching ability or your good judgment. Do not back down. Many novels have been challenged over the years but that doesn't mean they should be removed from the shelves or from the curriculum.

Even though they may not be vocal, you probably have far more people on your side than you realize. Reach out to other teachers, your followers on social media, and the ALA (you can report a challenge here) and I guarantee you will find parents and teachers who will support your cause.

If you have any questions or concerns, please comment below. Also, check out these amazing resources for books that are frequently challenged or banned:

To Kill a Mockingbird Bundle by Room 213

The Giver Unit Plan by Presto Plans

Of Mice and Men Escape Room by The Classroom Sparrow






Scaffolding Writing Instruction: Why I Use Sentence Frames

When it comes to teaching, one of the most beneficial things I try to do for all of my students in every lesson is provide layers of differentiation and scaffolding so that I reach as many kids as I can. When it comes to teaching writing, one way I scaffold instruction comes in the form of sentence frames. But first, an anecdote.

I’ll never forget my first teaching job. It was a long-term substitute position teaching ninth grade English to students who were severely behind grade-level. I was still in my pre-service teaching days, and I was completely unprepared. The first couple of weeks were awful. My classroom management skills were abysmal, the kids were not cooperating, and I was beginning to second-guess my career choice as an educator. Yes, it was THAT bad.
It wasn’t until one day when I had, at the time what I perceived to be, a crazy idea. I was going to get those kids to work whether they wanted to or not….and like I said, my classroom management wasn’t something to brag about. After reading a short passage with the students, I wanted them to write a brief paragraph responding to the text. I was desperate. All earlier attempts of assigning a writing prompt in the class failed. And it failed because of me. These students were not at the level, both language wise and ability wise, for what I was assigning earlier. However, at the time, I didn't realize this.
Scaffolding writing instruction in the secondary ELA classroom. So, in response to this situation, I wrote a fill-in-the-blank paragraph on the board before class started. After reading the selection, I slowly read the fill-in-the-blank paragraph aloud to the kids and modeled different types of responses that were appropriate for the blanks. Then I asked my students to copy the example from the board onto their papers and fill in the blanks with their thoughts.
And let me tell you something: it worked!

Not only did it work, but the students ALL sat quietly and wrote their responses. They were working. They were engaged. They were demonstrating their understanding, and they were trying their best. Afterward, I had them take turns reading their responses aloud in the classroom. Again, I had 100% participation.
However, this strategy only worked because I experienced a complete failure before this victory. I wasn’t meeting my students’ needs, and I wasn’t giving them appropriately differentiated material that matched their ability levels. I just expected these ninth graders to be able to sit in their seats and write because after all, that is what I was able to do when I was in the ninth grade. That failure is one-hundred percent on me, and I own it. I was expecting work that did not match their capabilities. And, as a direct result of that, I created an environment in which the students didn’t feel comfortable. They weren’t comfortable with the work, nor were they comfortable with me. And that was a big problem!
This was one of the most significant learning experiences of my teaching career. And I am very thankful that it’s a lesson I learned early on. We can’t just teach and expect grade-level, common core work from high school students if they aren’t there. There are so many outside factors that we must take into consideration when it comes to students’ learning equations, and as teachers, we have to acknowledge and accept that sometimes things are out of both our hands and our students’ hands. So, this is where sentence frames come into play.
A student won’t know how to properly craft an argumentative claim about a piece of nonfiction text if he or she doesn’t understand how the parts of speech work together. Students can’t learn, and study, and work on mastering nouns and verbs and prepositions if outside forces, forces in which they have absolutely no control of, are working against them. There are students who are hungry, anxious, homeless, victims of neglect and abuse, responsible for the care of their siblings, and doubting their existence. We owe it to our all of our students to understand this.

We have to go back to the basics and build our middle school and high school students up, even if that means teaching concepts and skills at the beginning of the year that are five grade-levels below what we teach. By teaching to our students’ needs rather than to what the grade-level standards dictate, we can then begin to move toward grade-level skills as the year progresses. Afterall, we can't teach the quadratic equation to kids who don't understand simple multiplication.
One of the biggest reasons why I use sentence frames in my classroom is because they help every student. Sentence frames are not just for our EL and below-grade-level students; they benefit every single learner in the classroom. And yes, I even use them with my college-bound juniors and seniors because sentence frames model concise writing and help reinforce academic writing.
As educators, we are more well-read than our students. We’ve read works by many different authors of varying abilities and have seen how authors craft their stories and arguments. Our students, not so much. It is our job to teach them how to engage with, understand, and respond to a text.

Some teachers may shy away from providing students with sentence frames because they may believe that in doing so, the work is becoming “too easy” or “too watered down.” However, if it is what our students need, shouldn’t we be doing it? Giving our students structure and sentence frames isn’t diluting the work. It’s not watering it down, and it certainly isn’t making it too easy. It is teaching them how to respond. A sentence frame provides our students with the structure they need to help them get their thoughts from their brain onto their paper. Sentence frames don’t tell students what or how to think, they show them how to structure their ideas logically.
As time goes on and students utilize sentence frames in class, you’ll begin to notice that students stop using the frames verbatim and start adding their own style to the frame. This is progress. As even more time goes on, you’ll notice that some of your students won’t use the frames you provided them with, but that they were able to write loosely within the structure entirely on their own. This is learning!
As a result of this learning experience, I created my differentiated writing responses for literature. For each writing topic, I created two handouts -each with a different level of differentiation. The level with less scaffolding guides students through the response and helps students organize their thoughts. The handout with more scaffolding provides a series of sentence frames to help students learn how to write academically about the literature they read. These organizers were game-changers in my classroom. Not only did I create generic scaffolded writing prompts for every piece of literature, but I also created some for specific works of literature: Romeo and Juliet, Of Mice and Men, and Lord of the Flies.

I believe so much in sentence frames and providing students with differentiated writing scaffolds that I am sharing this differentiated writing task with you. Click HERE to download a sample writing assignment that you can use in your classroom with any piece of fiction. This is a direct excerpt from my Differentiated Writing Tasks for Any Text resource, and I know it will help all of your writers, not just the struggling ones.
Here are some of my favorite sentence frames to use in the classroom. These can be used menu style where students create their paragraphs by selecting which frames to use, or you can use them for specific responses.

Sentence Frames to Talk about a Text:
According to _________, one reason why _____________.
Furthermore, __________ argues that ___________ because ___________.
As stated in the text, _________________.

Sentence Frames to Talk about Literature:
In the short story, the author describes ____________.
After ____________, the main character then _______________ which ____________.
The theme of the story is fully developed when __________________.

Sentence Frames to Agree with Evidence:
Confirming with ______________, further evidence shows ________________.
Similar to _____________, __________ also suggests _______________.
Likewise, ____________ also states ______________.

Sentence Frames to Argue or Disagree:
Even though __________________, there is evidence to believe that _____________.
While __________ states that ____________, contradicting evidence from __________ proves that _______________.
Despite ____________, _____________ argues that ________________.

Additional Resources for Scaffolding Writing
Sentence Fluency by Stacey Lloyd
Narrative Writing by Addie Williams
Literary Quote Analysis by Nouvelle ELA


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