What is the difference and Why should we care?
Well, first and foremost, we should care if we want our students to speak like scholars. If we want our students to be marketable after they graduate. If we want them TO graduate! Then we should care! Sentence stems and frames are scaffolds as students learn language and content.
Sometimes educators use the terms sentence stems, sentence starters and sentence frames interchangeably. You may wonder...are they the same thing? The answer is no, they are are not the same. They have their own form and function.
Sentence frames essentially frame a sentence and students add in some verbiage. Think of a picture frame where you add in a picture. Sentence frames look very much like traditional fill in the blank sentences.
Here are some examples of sentence frames:
Sentence frames are scaffolds that may fit the needs of English learners at beginning levels of English proficiency. Some students may also benefit from visuals and word banks.
However, sentence frames can be used with English learners at higher levels of English proficiency to teach specific language structures or to teach mortar words/tier II words.
A sentence stem is the beginning of a sentence. Think of the stem of a plant. It's not the whole plant, just the beginning of it. It helps students get their sentence started. Sometimes we use the term sentence starter interchangeably. Sentence stems give students the inertia to get their thoughts going. Then their sentences bloom.
Here are examples of sentence stems:
Sentence stems are scaffolds for English learners at all levels of English proficiency. They are open ended.
By thinking of the end in mind, you can level and personalize sentence frames or sentence stems to help English learners progress in language proficiency.
Beginning-Simple sentence structure: ____and ___ are quadrilaterals.
Intermediate-Comparative sentence structure: ___and ___ are quadrilaterals, however ___has___.
Advanced-Complex comparative sentence structure: Although___and ___ are ___, ___is different because...
Why is it important for us to provide students with sentence frames or sentence stems?
Learning to communicate effectively is important for all of us. I think we can all agree on that. But providing students with vocabulary lists will not achieve that goal.
Let's begin with the end in mind again. What is our over-aching goal? If we want students to, let's say, understand and communicate effectively using domain specific vocabulary (vocabulary of our content area), then how will we get them there?
This model takes students through the Gradual Release of Responsibility or I do, We do, You do model.
How do I think of vocabulary?
Start with your grade level standard. Look at what students need to know. Whether it's Common Core or not, your state standards will reveal vocabulary that is critical for your students to master.