Learning Objective:

Students will be able to use the following sentence starters to guide their practice in reading and writing about challenging texts. These sentence starters are designed after thinking tools experienced readers and writers access in the process of meaning construction.

Instructions for Students

The following sentence starters may be helpful to you if you're struggling for how to approach your reading reflections, informal writing, essay prewriting, and writing reflections (for reading notes/reading responses, journal writing, and peer-feedback sessions).

 

Planning and Goal Setting

  • My purpose is…
  • My top priority is…
  • To accomplish my goal, I plan to…

Tapping Prior Knowledge

  • I already know that…
  • This reminds me of…
  • This relates to…

Asking Questions

  • I wonder why…
  • What if…
  • How come…

Predicting

  • I'll bet that…
  • I think…
  • If, then…

Visualizing

  • I can picture…
  • In my mind I see…
  • If this were a movie…

Making Connections

  • This reminds me of…
  • I experienced this once when…
  • I can relate to this because…

Summarizing

  • The basic gist…
  • The key information is…
  • In a nutshell, this says that…

Adopting an Alignment

  • The character I most identify with is…
  • I really got into the story when…
  • I can relate to this author because…
 

Forming Interpretations

  • What this means to me is…
  • I think this represents…
  • The idea I'm getting is…

Monitoring

  • I got lost here because…
  • I need to reread the part where…
  • I know I'm on the right track because…

Clarifying

  • To understand ____ better, I need to know more about…
  • Something that is still not clear is…
  • I'm guessing that this means ____, but I need to…

Revising Meaning

  • At first I thought ____, but now I…
  • My latest thought about this is…
  • I'm getting a different picture here because…

Analyzing the Author's Craft

  • A golden line for me is…
  • This word/phrase stands out for me because…
  • I like how the author uses ____ to show…

Reflecting and Relating

  • So, the big idea is…
  • A conclusion I'm drawing is…
  • This is relevant to my life because…

Evaluating

  • I like/don't like ____ because…
  • This could be more effective if…
  • The most important message is…
August Rodin's  The Thinker

August Rodin's The Thinker

Excerpted with permission from the National Council of Teachers of English. Olson, C.B. and Land, R. (2007). A Cognitive Strategies Approach to Reading and Writing Instruction for English Language Learners in Secondary School.

Note: From Olson, 2003, p. 8. Adapted from Flower and Hayes (1981); Langer (1989); Paris, Wasik and Turner (1991); Tierney and Pearson (1983); and Tompkins (1997).


Reflection

These sentence starters will be valuable to help students form initial reflections in accordance with all the Reading Standards for Literature K-12. For instance, "This word/phrase stands out for me because…" will help students "Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text" and "I like how the author uses ____ to show…" will help students "analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama."

Guided by Flower and Hayes, these sentence starters are designed as tools to guide students through the problem-solving and discovery process to help them form and clarify new insights and new ideas related to reading literature. Further guidance can be provided by teachers asking students to focus on specific sections of the list, or specific questions even. These will help students reflect on choices authors make in compositions (the problems professional writers are trying to solve), not only enhancing their reading and analytical skills, but hopefully will also help them learn how to formulate the questions to guide them through the problem-solving processes in their own writing.

It’s my thinking that these sentence starters may be particularly valuable to spurn reflective journal entries and informal writing assignments. Flower and Hayes point to Donald Murray’s observation that “‘writers wait for signals’ which tell them it’s time to write, which ‘give a sense of closure, a way of handling a diffuse and overwhelming subject’” (477). These sentence starters could well work as those signals to help students begin this process.

As an added bonus, many of these sentence starters can also be used to help students reflect on their own writing, and their classmates writings in peer review sessions. “Clarifying” and “Revising Meaning” questions, for instance, would be useful starters for reflective writing on research and research papers in progress (esp. "To understand ____ better, I need to know more about..." and "Something that is still not clear is…"), and “Analyzing the Author’s Craft” and “Evaluating” would help students approach their classmates writing in peer-reviews (esp. "This could be more effective if…" and "I like how the author uses ____ to show…").