In the early grades, students use word cards to build little sentences. In this way they learn about the parts that sentences are made of and how those parts fit together. It’s an elementary school thing, but the concept of a sentence as building blocks fitted together in a precise way can be applied to activities at any grade level.
In the middle grades, the building blocks are all the parts that make up well-written sentences – the eight parts of speech as well as sentence elements such as phrases and clauses. The tools for fitting them together into well-crafted sentences are the rules of grammar. Incorporating these rules specifically into writing assignments, starting at the individual sentence level, helps students become experts at their job of writing.
There are lots of ways to incorporate sentence writing practice into daily language arts lessons with a variety of short assignments used either as bell ringer activities or as individual practice. Students can begin with these practice activities, and then apply the specific skill they’ve learned in each one to a short sample of their own writing. Here are some of my ideas, starting with activities that focus on nouns and verbs and moving on to other parts of speech, phrases, and clauses.
Nouns and Verbs
· At the simplest level, students can fill in the blanks in sentences with nouns and verbs of their choice, either from a word bank or from their own ideas.
· Students can identify the nouns or verbs in sentences and then replace them with more interesting ones. To apply to their own writing, students choose a few sentences with overused nouns or verbs in a piece of their writing and then replace those overused words with better ones, maybe using a thesaurus for ideas.
More Parts of Speech
· To illustrate a sentence, have students first identify whichever sentence elements you want to work on, and then draw an illustration that shows that particular element (adjective, prepositional phrase, etc).
· Do a “refrigerator magnet” activity in which students choose and combine words to write sentences as directed. To focus on parts of speech, include in the directions just which parts of speech they need to use in each sentence.
· First, students identify the parts of speech in a mentor sentence; then they write a sentence of their own following the same pattern. Start with a short simple sentence so that they get the idea, but as their skills permit, the sky’s the limit with this one.
Phrases and Clauses
· Picture prompts are great for writing sentences, not just longer essays. Give students a set of small pictures, and instruct them to write a sentence with particular elements (for example – a prepositional phrase and a dependent clause) for each one.
· Give students a paragraph made up of very short sentences. Instruct them to revise the paragraph by combining sentences with coordinating or subordinating conjunctions, or to imbed the important detail from some of the sentences into other ones by using adjectives, adverbs, and prepositional phrases.
· Activities such as the refrigerator magnets can also be done with phrases and clauses. So can the mentor sentence activity; just substitute a longer text in place of the mentor sentence, maybe a part of a classic story or a page from a science textbook.
These are some of the ideas that I used in preparing my new writing resources for building and revising sentences. If you are interested in some new, ready to use activities, click on the image below to view a preview.
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