In all of my years of teaching, my year as a dual language teacher was the year that required the most daily reflection. Not only was it a new method of teaching for me, but it also was very challenging as I was striving to not only meet my student’s academic needs, but also foster their learning of a new language. One of the most valuable teaching tips I learned during this season was the importance of using sentence stems during partner talk.
What is Partner Talk
“Partner talk is the bread and butter of a classroom filled with the talk of learning.”-Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
When you use partner talk in your classroom, you are allowing students to apply their learning. Partner talk occurs anytime you do “turn-and-talk”, “find someone who…”, or “think-pair-share” or any other method that is intentional talk with two or three learners talking about their learning.
Why We Use Sentence Stems
- Support our ELL students by providing scaffolding
- Set the expectation
- Practice academic language with support
- Reduced anxiety among students who do not like to speak in big groups
What It Looks Like in Our Classroom
I always liked to plan out our sentence stems for accountable talk with my lessons. I wanted them to be a normal part of our learning environment, not in a box that we only use during a certain time of day. I would jot them down on my lesson plans and then write them on sentence strips or on the board for the students to easily see. I liked to be able to reference them often.
- Students sit knee to knee
- Teacher tells who will go first (peanut butter partner or jelly partner)
- Teacher models talk using the sentence stem
- Sentence stems are displayed so that students can refer to them
- Student 1 talks for approximately 30 seconds.
- Teacher says “switch” OR teacher says, “Partner 2, tell me what your partner shared in your own words.”
Favorite Sentence Stems
I always like using sentence stems that are specific to our lessons. For example, if I was teaching a lesson on 3D figures I might use these:
“I know that this figure is a _____ because it has _______.”
“I noticed that on a _______ figure, you can see_______.”
Some other classroom favorites we could always turn to are…
“I know that _______ because ______.”
“I noticed ________.”
“I already know that ____ and I learned that _____ so I wonder if ______.”
“I think ______ because_______.”
Partner talk is an important piece of helping students solidify their learning and practice academic vocabulary. Using sentence stems helps support all students in this in various ways. After all, as the saying goes, “You don’t truly know something unless you can teach it.”
Do you provide opportunities for partner talk in your classroom? What does it look like? Do you use sentence stems? I’d love to hear more!