How to Use Sentence-Pattern Charts to Improve Your English Learners’ Vocabulary

Duration: 10-20 minutes

Type: Individual or Small Groups

What You Will Need to Practice ESL Vocabulary with Sentence-Pattern Charts


  • Small Vocabulary Flashcards with Images and/or Words (See Below)
  • Sentence Chart (See Below)

Download Resources: Scroll to the end of this article to download resources for this activity.

Examples

You can grab a couple of these resources below. If you need more, you can get students to draw their own after brainstorming ideas, or you can find a whole catalogue of of these resources in the Kid-Inspired ESL Curriculum Membership.

Sentence Pattern Chart Base for ESL Vocabulary

An Example of a Single-Sentence Sentence-Pattern Chart

Small Vocabulary Flashcards That Can Be Cut Out

An Example of a Multiple-Choice Sentence-Pattern Chart Where You Can Put Lots of Words into Each Column

Small Flashcards with Just Words Both Singular & Plural (With Verbs, You Need One Card with Each Form of the Verb)

Overview of This Activity


This activity was inspired in part by Katie Toppel. She’s always posting great ideas on Twitter and she also manages an incredible online Book Club for teachers of English learners.

This activity can be used to practice a set of target vocabulary or respond to a reading passage. Students get into small groups. Each group gets a Sentence Chart with a sentence frame on it as well as a stack of small vocabulary flashcards with words they can organize onto the chart. Students get in groups and organize vocabulary flashcards onto the Sentence Chart. If you don’t have flashcards, a word bank on the board can work well too. Students then write on their sentence charts. Afterward, students practice sharing their sentences with each other and then committing the sentences to writing.

How to Organize Sentence-Pattern Charts for ESL Vocabulary Practice


  1. Choose a list of target vocabulary words or a reading passage you’d like them to respond to.
  2. Prepare enough sets of pictures and vocabulary words for each group to have a set.
  3. Print off a Sentence Pattern-Chart for students to organize the words onto.
  4. Split students up into groups.
  5. Students discuss what sentence they’d like to make and put the flashcards onto the sentence chart.
  6. They share the sentences they’ve created.
  7. They write the sentences when they’re done.
  8. For essays, you can provide them with a “Paragraph Frame” or “Essay Frame” where they can plug in the sentences they’ve created and fill in a few blanks for the topic sentence/paragraph and concluding sentence/paragraph.

Benefits of Sentence-Pattern Charts for ESL Vocabulary Practice


  • Students become more fluent with the words, having used them repeatedly in meaningful contexts.
  • Small teams keep everyone involved.
  • Students practice also get excellent grammar practice by putting together well-structured sentences.

Have you tried this activity? How did it go? Leave your comments below!

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