Sentence Pattern Chart

Two students with a paleontology

Sentence patterning charts are similar to sentence frames, but offer students more choice and explicitly teach common sentence patterns. This strategy is part of Colorin Colorado's ELL Strategy Library and can be used to support academic language development for all students.

Strategy Overview

How This Strategy Supports Language Development

A sentence pattern chart sequences each component of a sentence and provides words that students can put together to communicate their own ideas. Charts can include images, icons, and examples for student modeling.

These charts build students' ability to speak and write with 'sentence patterns' that can be used in multiple contexts. A sentence patterning chart can make students' speech and writing more structured and accurate.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Make a table that contains columns for the essential elements of the sentence pattern students will need to communicate about the topic: nouns, verbs, and details (adjectives, adverbs, prepositions). 
  2. In each column, provide a list of possible content-specific words or phrases. 
  3. Have students speak or write in sentences using the chart.

Lessons Learned

  • Choose a model sentence with the pattern students will be practicing from a familiar text or context.
  • Work with the students to list additional words and phrases for each column.
  • Model the first few sentences for students.
  • Point out the explicit sequencing of the parts of the sentence (e.g., an adjective goes before a noun, an adverb can go before or after the verb).
  • While the columns can be labeled with linguistic terms (nouns, verbs, prepositional phrases, etc.), teachers do not need to spend a lot of time teaching those terms to students in early phases of English acquisition.
  • Start with an image to build comprehension of the words and phrases in the chart.



  • Include a visual for each of the words and phrases on the chart (e.g., pictures of the nouns, picture for verb actions, arrows to show preposition).
  • Use students' heritage language as needed.
  • Offer sentence pattern charts with simple sentence structures (noun, verb, object).
  • Begin with the Picture Word Induction Model to build sentence patterns with a detailed image.


  • Create sentence pattern charts for more complex sentence structures such as those that start with a dependent clause (e.g. Although…; While…; Since…) 
  • Have students contribute more of the words and phrases to the chart for each column. 


  • Choose a lengthy complex sentence from the text used in class. Have advanced students identify the 'sentence pattern' in that sentence and create their own sentence pattern chart.
  • Have students work in teams to complete the chart with possible words and phrases for each column in their chart.

Co-Teaching Considerations

Content or Grade-Level Teacher

  1. Develop a grade-level speaking or writing prompt.
  2. Write a grade-level model response.

English Language Development Teacher

  1. Review the model response for one or two simple sentence patterns students will need to speak or write in their responses.
  2. Create a sentence pattern chart with several columns.
  3. Ask students for ideas for words and phrases to add to the chart.
  4. Hold a discussion to reflect on how this strategy can be used in another class.


Type of chartSample charts
Chart w/ visuals
Sentence examples