Monday, March 26, 2012

Frame It! Lightening the Linguistic Load!

My husband and I are promoters.  When we find a business or restaurant we like, we tell everyone about it!  We want everyone else to love our new favorite thing as much as we do.

That is how I feel about language frames.

I love them!  I believe in them!  I have seen them work over and over!

On Saturday, I spent the day with some fantastic teachers from Lufkin ISD and Nacogdoches ISD.  I led a session on using language frames to build academic language.  Because I always need an analogy, I titled the training, "It Just Needs a Little Salt:  Using Language Frames to Preserve and Flavor Your Content Lessons."

I believe that language frames are one of the simplest and most effective language acquisition strategies available to us.  Like salt, language frames are a small, CHEAP thing that can go a long way in preserving and flavoring the academic language of your lessons.

Ever since I first learned about language frames, I find a way to work one in to every lesson that I have planned.  I think they are especially important in the bilingual and dual-language classroom.  Teachers are often concerned that students are not using the target language when doing group work.  I believe that it is fine for students to process in their dominant language as long as they can ultimately produce the product in the target language.

The video above is from a small group math tutoring session where I had just introduced the game Multiplication Rio.  As you can hear, the students' natural tendency would be to just use Spanish but I gave them the frame #  multiplied by # is equal to #.  BAM!  This little math game is now doubly effective as these girls practice math while getting in a little English Language Development at the same time!

Want to read more about using language frames in the classroom?

  • This document has organized sample language frames according to the language function (cause and effect, compare and contrast, summarizing, etc.) and has them color-coded according to language proficiency level.
  • This site explains how one primary teacher uses language frames to build vocabulary.
  • This upper grade science teacher shares how sentence frames make for richer discussions.
  • Some of my very favorite researchers/authors Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey write here about the importance of using sentence frames to lighten the linguistic load so that students can focus on the content.
Do you use language frames in your classroom?  How have they made a difference with your students?


  1. I use language frames for nearly everything! I think they are so beneficial because they give my students the chance to focus on the content they want to share versus the language that surrounds it. When I give them the frames they are seeing that surrounding language used effectively as well, which is a great learning tool too.

    The Second Grade Superkids

    1. I totally agree, Krista! So glad to know of another language frame lover! :) You should take some pictures of the language frames that you use. Teachers always want ideas for different ways to display them (on board, sentence strips, table tents, etc.).

  2. Hi Candis

    Shannon here, from Primary Education Oasis. Thanks for referencing my site in your post! I wanted to let you know that the link to it is now broken - I changed the URL of the page.

    I did look for a contact form but couldn't find one, so I hope you see this as broken links stink. The link in your post is the one that says, "This site explains how one primary teacher..." The correct URL now is

    Thanks again, and I appreciate the link fix.

    All the best,
    Primary Education Oasis


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