Instructional Strategies

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An Example

Wormeli, Rick. Summarization in Any Subject: 50 Techniques to Improve Student Learning. Alexandria, Vigina. ASCD. 2005.

Sentence Stems

What is it?
Sentence stems, also known as sentence frames or sentence starters, are short, introductory phrases to start a sentence. They can force a student to use academic and/or content vocabulary if you write it into the stem.

How Does It Work?
1. As you plan your lesson, write 2-3 sentence stems to use with the class. Put these stems somewhere the students can see them- board, projected, handout, etc. You can use stems throughout the lesson and at the end to help students process their learning.

2. Have students prepare to talk. Give them time to think of the answer they are going to use. They may even need to write it down first.

3. Have students share. You can have students turn to their neighbor or group, or devise a more elaborate sharing strategy, but at this point, students will share their sentence, in its complete form, with their partner(s).
Why use it?

Stems provide a launching point for student thinking and speaking. Students, especially ELLs, often have an idea of the answer but do not know how to express it with academic language. Unlike a fill in the blank that limits the choices that can be correct in that blank, the stem should have several correct answer choices.

An Example:

  • One way to distinguish desert from tundra is…

  • One of the causes of the American Revolutionary War is…

  • As a result of the Civil War, the South…

  • On the other hand, as a result of the Civil War, the North…

  • One reason the Middle East is in turmoil is…

  • One historical reason the Middle East is in turmoil is…

  • One recent reason the Middle East is in turmoil is…

  • A benefit of a bicameral legislature is…

  • A Democracy is different than a Republic because…

  • A Democracy is similar to a Republic because…

  • Republicans and Democrats agree on… but they disagree on …

  • One effect of the growth of mercantilism is…

Sketch to Stretch

What is it?
A comprehension strategy which involves visualizing a passage of text and interpreting it through drawing. The strategy encourages diverse perspectives and fosters open discussion of various interpretations. Sketch-to-stretch is first introduced, demonstrated, and applied in a whole-group session. Students are then placed in groups with similar instructional needs to practice the strategy through teacher-guided small-group instruction and student-run comprehension centers. At the end of the third session the class gathers to reflect on how the visualizing strategy can help them understand texts.

How Does It Work?
Begin by modeling and explaining Sketch to Stretch for students.

  1. After reading or listening to text, have students sketch what the text means to them. Caution students that they are not to draw an illustration of the text, but rather they should visually sketch the meaning from the text.

  2. Encourage students to experiment and assure them there are many ways to represent personal meanings.

  3. Have students write a few sentences below their illustration that explains its meaning.

  4. Have students gather in groups of three to five.

  5. Each person in the group shares his or her sketch. As the sketch is shared, all other group members give their interpretation of the sketch. Once everyone has shared, the artist tells his or her interpretation.

  6. Repeat step 4 until everyone in the group has had a chance to share.

Why use it?

It helps students appreciate and understand things in the text or content that they might not have noticed before. The strategy allows students to create, represent, and share personal meanings for a narrative or expository text; to summarize understandings through sketches.

An Example:

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