Using Thinking Stems In The Primary Classroom

Hello Teacher Friends! 
Today I would love to tell you about how I use thinking stems in my classroom!
Thinking stems are simply a way to help your students start their thought when they are participating in class discussions, answering questions, or sharing ideas. Our students have amazing ideas in their heads, but they often do not know where to begin when they attempt to share those ideas with us through oral discussion or written work.  Thinking stems provide a model to our students and help them to better organize their thoughts.  
I post thinking stems everywhere in my classroom and I refer to them I want my students to reply in speech and in writing with complete sentences, and thinking stems provide a model and support for them to do just that!
Thinking stems are always posted on our classroom anchor charts to promote classroom discussion and participation during our mini lessons and carpet time:
Before we begin a new reading strategy or concept, I like to write thinking stems that we will strategically use throughout the week on cards that I post at our small group table and at the carpet.  This provides a visual reminder for my students and helps them “start their thought” when they want to share their thinking at the table.
I LOVE to use name plates to record our thinking stems because they are durable and the perfect size!  These beautiful black and white name plates are from Teacher Created Resources.  
Here is our Thinking Stems bulletin board!
It is posted at the back reading table. I use push pins to hang up the name plates so that I can easily and quickly change our thinking stems based on what we are currently learning.
The border around this bulletin is Teacher Created Resources’ Double-Sided border in Black Decor. I love it against this bright pink paper!
Here’s a close up of some thinking stems that my first grades are currently using in their discussions and writing when we share our inferences with one another.

My students also use thinking stems as writing “starters” when they respond to text.  Here is an example of how this little one used our thinking stem board to record his inference as he responded to text during guided reading.

In the photo below, we were using my Differentiated Inference Reading Passages. Check out this little sweetie’s inference response. She is becoming a pro at using the Thinking Stems board!

You can find my Differentiated Inference Packet by clicking HERE or on the photo below:

Have you ever called on a student who you KNOW knows the answer and is capable of sharing something….but the student just STARES at you?  When this happens, I refer students to a thinking stem and I have the student orally say the thinking stem aloud.  7/10 times the student is able to come up with SOMETHING to share about the question I asked.  Thinking stems really boost a child’s confidence when it comes to classroom participation!
(My kids love when I wear my crown during guided reading. When it’s on, they can’t interrupt the small group table!” 😉
I hope this post gave you some ideas on how to use thinking stems in your own classroom. They are a valuable tool for our students’ thinking and learning!
Happy Thinking and as always – 

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  1. These are great ideas! I recently just moved my boys to our district and it has been a huge change for them as it is more academically challenging here. My third grader is having a difficult time putting his thoughts into words on paper. I'm going to use some of these with him. Thank you!

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