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Academic Conversations in the Primary Classroom


We know that our students need to be able to use and understand academic vocabulary. It’s part of the foundation of their success.

Of course we need to figure out our part as teachers.

Years ago, I began using leveled sentence frames, which is a great start. They integrate the academic vocabulary and assist students with forming a grammatically correct sentence. Truth be told, I stopped using them. I don’t want to talk about it. But this year, I began using the leveled frames again. This time with more intention. There was more of a purpose. More of an understanding, on my end, of the importance of using them.

This past summer I had the privilege, and I mean the privilege, of attending an English Language Development (ELD) training. I learned so much, but the idea that stuck with me is the academic language component of language development. The presenter had so much passion for the topic that it was impossible not to take the passion and make it my own.

I’m not sure about other states, but in California we are required to have a separate differentiated ELD time block. Students are leveled by their language levels and move to different classrooms to be taught at their levels. The purpose of this time is to teach children academic language and to understand the structure of English. Wow! Big job!

My students use the sentence frames (pictured above) during ELD and ELA time. My ELD class, the expanding level, uses the blue level and challenges themselves with the green level, once they are ready.

So we were happily using our sentence frames when I realized the kids could use more. They needed to move beyond giving a one or two sentence response and begin by conversing with one another.

I made these conversation squares™, which I placed in the center of a group. Each student was responsible for speaking about a selection using the color coded sentence frames and and conversation squares™. I really liked these, the kids were engaged, but I wanted more. More!

So I came up with the idea of Conversation Placemats™. The kids need more than one sentence frame to increase academic language acquisition. They need to have conversations. Conversations make us think. They help us learn from one another.

Each placemat encourages students to speak in complete sentences and to use academic language. There is a before, while, and after reading section, and discussion frames to promote students questioning one another.

These placemats can be differentiated or you can use the same one for each student. Either way, students will be having discussions. And discussions will increase students’ abilities to listen, speak, read, and write.

You find this resource here.



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I’m Stacy.
Welcome to Literacy, Please, a website dedicated to all things literacy. If you need engaging, hands-on, research-based literacy activities, you’ve come to the right place. From phonics to fluency and language to writing. You’ll find what you need here and so much more. I’m so happy you stopped by!

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