Sentence frames are a productive tool for teaching academic vocabulary when done effectively. Sentence frames require students to use the word in context while encouraging them to demonstrate their understanding by using meaningful examples.Watch this video for example sentence frames that you can use to teach new words.

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Teaching Vocabulary with Sentence Frames Transcription

It is very common for teachers to ask students to write sentences to practice using new vocabulary, and very often we get students writing sentences that do not show any understanding of the word.

Let’s take the word petrified for instance. You might get sentences such as I was petrified last night. I feel petrified. These sentences do not show if the students are understanding the meaning of the word.

You could replace the target word with any word, and the sentence would still make sense.

One strategy you could use to make writing sentences more productive is to give them sentence frames. A sentence frame requires the student to use the word in contexts and to generate a meaningful example that demonstrates their understanding.

Let’s look at this sentence frame for petrified. I was petrified when… when I walked through a haunted mansion. Or when a spider crawled up my leg. Or when I heard the bear growling a few feet away.

Including the word when requires a student to think about the context of why someone might be petrified. When you create your own sentence frames, ask yourself does it require students to generate an example or context? Does it use words such as "when," "because," or "so?"

Let’s take a look at how sentence frames are used for game-based learning environment.

I’m one of the lead content developers and designers of Word Raider implements the principles of good learning games by leading expert doctor James Gee. We also integrated the research from vocabulary experts like Robert Marzano and Isabel Beck.

Dr. Beck emphasizes the use of sentence stems, or sentence frames, so that students are required to integrate a word’s meaning into a context, to explain the situation.

Let’s see how this is done in Word Raider. Students have to upgrade each of the one hundred words to progress through the game. So they would go to the upgrade booth, choose a word, let’s say preserve, upgrade it, and they have four different tasks: two writing and two that are speaking.

Let’s look at the first one. You’ll see a sentence frame “If I had a valuable old photograph, I would preserve it by … for example the student can say “I would wrap it up in paper and keep it somewhere safe” and then they would record that and send it to the teacher.

Let’s look at another word. Let’s look at intimidate. Look at the animation of the word intimidate. It provide context for students to remember what it means. Let’s look at the sentence frame: “I feel intimidated when I have to… give a speech in front of a large audience.”

Once the student is done recording that, they send it to their teacher for assessment and for grading.
Let’s look at a different example for veto. Look at the animation again. “My parents veoted my decision to [blank].” Here, students have to think of a situation as well as a reason to support that situation of why their parents might want to veto something.

Well that’s it for today’s How-To Tip. Be sure to visit for more activities, downloads, and videos. There are a variety of subjects that we will cover, to help you teach English learners. You can learn more about Word Raider at, and don’t forget to share this with other teachers who might find it useful.

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