Teaching children to write sentences can be difficult because of the abstract concept of the two parts of a sentence--the subject and predicate. Children mistakenly use sentence fragments in their writing because that is how people commonly speak. Modelling proper sentence structure and activities that help students understand the necessary parts of a sentence will teach children to write them correctly.
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Copying and Dictation
Before a student can learn to write, a child must hear and see writing done correctly. Reading is an integral step in teaching writing because it gives students a chance to hear complete sentences and the correct use of grammar. Teachers should provide ample opportunities for children in the beginning stages of writing to copy complete sentences. Copying is a multi-sensory skill that is optimal for learning. A student looks at the words, perhaps says the words to himself and then writes it. Dictation is also beneficial to emergent writers. They have the chance to hear proper grammar and sentence structure, write it down and see it on paper. These tactics of modelling correct sentence structure will be the building blocks for students to develop their own writing skills.
Using Question Words
Explaining to students that all sentences must have a subject and a predicate can be difficult for children who struggle with abstract concepts. Introduce question words to help students remember to make complete sentences. Students can form the subject of the sentence by answering "who" or "what." They can form the predicate part of the sentence by answering "why," "where" or "how." Graphic organisers with boxes to write the subject of the sentence, plus the action words, along with the "how" or "why" are a good visual guide for children learning to write.
Journaling is a low-stress way for young writers to learn to form complete sentences. Provide children with sentence starters written on a white board and have them fill in the rest. Good sentence starters are open-ended and allow for children to be creative. Some ideas are: "When it snows, I like to ..." or "My friend and I went to ...". Providing students with sentence starters and other opportunities to journal allows them to practice writing down ideas and create sentences. Sit with each child after he journals and have him read his writing to you. If he has written a fragment sentence, ask him if it sounds correct. Work with the student on adding words to make it a complete sentence.
Games are an excellent teaching tool because they engage and motivate students. You can make your own games to use in the classroom or at home by writing sentences on strips and cutting them apart into two pieces: the subject and the predicate. Children can form silly sentences mixing and matching the subject pieces with the predicate pieces. Online games that allow children to read "sentences" and decide if they are complete or fragments are also good tools for learning to write sentences.
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