Over the course of my career as an ELA teacher and instructional coach, I have heard, time and time again, this great debate among writing teachers: To provide sentence starters, or to not provide sentence starters.
Every time this debate comes up, I am shocked to hear teachers claim that sentence starters make writing “too easy” or “too formulaic.”
And I’m shocked because every time I hear those arguments, I think: What is the alternative?
Honestly, raise your hand if you’ve ever gotten a paper that starts with “Today I’m going to talk about…” or a paragraph that introduces evidence with “The quote I’m going to use is…”
Those phrases used to come up all the time in my students’ writing, and every time I saw them, I became so frustrated! I got caught up in a whole internal dialogue where I was, essentially, mad at a student for not knowing how to start a sentence and making a mistake while trying.
When you think of it that way, it sounds ridiculous, right?
The problem is, even when we feel we’ve told students, over and over, what a topic sentence should do, until students have a model that they can use, adjust themselves, or see in action, they are going to continue to make mistakes in their writing.
That is why, in our writing professional development course, Writing Instruction, A Proven Approach, Jessica and I created numerous sentences starters for all the places in evidence based writing where students struggle.
From our experience, we have found that sentence starters offer three incredible benefits.
- They teach students the correct way to integrate their ideas into an essay or a Response to Literature as we like to call it.
- They prevent writer’s block and allow students to focus on the important stuff, which is their critical thinking.
- And finally, they offer an opportunity to differentiate for students and provide a jumping off point for students who are ready for more creative or original thought.
If you’re still skeptical, listen in to today’s episode, where I dig into each of these benefits, describe the incredible results I have seen in students’ writing, and share some actionable tips that will help you improve your writing instruction today.
And if you want even more information on how to take your students’ writing to the next level, tune in to our FREE training, available now!
Today you will hear:
- [02:15] The shocking belief I learned that many teachers had about sentence starters
- [3:15] My struggle with sentence starters in my early years teaching writing
- [4:40] The real reason students turn in less-than-stellar writing
- [6:25] What is included for students in our writing course, Writing Instruction: A Proven Approach
- [7:07] The three incredible benefits of using sentence starters
- [18:38] Our FREE training on expanding your students’ critical thinking in their writing
I’m so glad the podcast is helping you on your teaching journey! Thank you so much for this feedback; you’ve just made my day!
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