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Sentence Stems

The use of stems in my classroom has completely changed the way I look at student discourse. Before the use of stems I would always expect my students to turn and talk in the fashion of think-pair-share. Then I realized I kept getting frustrated because the students were not sharing their thinking the way I was expecting them too. Now I realize that if I want students to share in a certain way I need to model this and give them opportunities and structures to share their thinking. I have used stems in all content areas. For example, in math when I looked at the graph I saw __________ this makes me think________. It has had a huge impact on the level of student discourse that is taking place. The response stems have had even more of an impact. My students have such good conversations because they can organize their thinking and defend their thoughts.

Turn and Talk

So now that I have told you how stems have impacted my room let me tell you about turn and talk. To have a successful turn and talk expectations need to be taught from the beginning. My students know they face the speaker, listen to understand then respond to their partners thinking. It has taken a lot of practice to make this a routine. I like to remind my partners that the purpose of the partner is to help each other when we get stuck.

It used to drive me crazy not being able to get around to every partnership when we were doing our read aloud. I have realized I do not have to. The point of turn and talk is to get students thinking and sharing their thoughts with others. I have created a system that helps me keep track of my students oral expression. I have a checklist with every students name. Across the top I put the standard for the lesson. An example from Poppy would be a day that students are inferring character traits using text details. So on the top I would write character traits. If a student can use the stem during turn and talk or share out I would mark them with a check. If they needed me to help them partially I would mark they needed support. If a student completely needs me to guide them through the stem I mark guided. This became really helpful when I chose new partners for our next read aloud. Some students have better verbal skills than others.Test scores and reading comprehension scores do not always match language skills.

We just met with Bethany about how to coach students through the stem. I have really been working on guiding students back to the stem. It is important for students to share their thinking. We live in a society where not many students are exposed to organized language skills. Using stems with Turn and Talks allows students opportunities to practice language skills that are long enduring.


Written by Hilary Cullen --- 3rd Grade Teacher