All About Adolescent Literacy

All about adolescent literacy. Resources for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12.
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Classroom Strategies

Frame Routine

Download a Graphic Organizer


The Frame Routine is a strategy designed to assist students as they organize topics, main ideas and details about reading assignments. This technique includes a basic hierarchic graphic organizer called a "Frame" that can be used to help students think and talk about the key topic and essential related information.


Frames allow students to identify the main ideas and supporting details while reading texts. As they list them on a Frame graphic, comprehension of the written material tends to increase. The Frame Routine is flexible and can be used with all content areas. The Frame Routine can be particularly beneficial to many students with learning disabilities because it depicts the organization of the concepts that students are expected to learn.

Create and use the strategy

Introduce the assigned passage of text to the students. Discuss the Frame Routine technique and model the procedure by co-constructing an initial Frame graphic. Simultaneously fill in information with students on blank copies of the form. This provides teachers with the opportunity to monitor the students' level of understanding and to adjust instruction as needed. After students have become familiar with use of the Frame Routine, they can use the Frame graphics independently or in small groups as they identify main ideas and essential details from pre-selected texts.

There are five basic steps for using the Frame Routine:

  1. Select the topic
  2. The teacher introduces the lesson topic and provides students with a blank Frame. Students note the topic in the appropriate spaces on the graphic. This would most likely be the title of the reading selection.

  3. Determine the main ideas
  4. Students record brief statements or words that summarize key ideas relating to the topic.

  5. Discuss the details
  6. The details that are important for students to learn and remember are written on the Frame graphic in the essential details boxes. These essential details can later be ranked on the graphic according to level of importance.

  7. Develop the "Big Idea"
  8. The teacher, small groups, or the whole class develop the Big Idea statement or the "So what?" idea. This statement is designed to help students understand how the topic fits with the overall context.
    These statements can take the form of:

    • A short summary
    • A conclusion the student has drawn
    • A connection to a real-world application relevant to the student
  9. Evaluate the information
  10. The teacher facilitates evaluation of the new information when it is clearly organized. Several follow-up activities can then be employed to extend students' understanding of important concepts. Such activities might include the following:

    • Having in-depth discussions;
    • Debating various points;
    • Drawing conclusions;
    • Making connections to other ideas;
    • Forming predictions, or forecasts; and
    • Engaging in journal writing

Further reading

Frame Routine Chart

Download this Frame Routine example.
(19K PDF)*

See also Edwin Ellis' Frame example.


Ellis, E. S. (1998). Framing Main Ideas and Essential Details to Promote Comprehension. Retrieved 2008, February 6, from

Ellis, E. S. (2008). The University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning. The Framing Routine: Framing the big picture with essential details.

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