Students need to be able to construct different types of sentences correctly. Using the correct grammar and the correct sequencing in a sentence makes a student's writing easy to understand. Using a variety of different sentence types is a key skill for improving writing. You can teach your students how to structure a sentence and also lead activities to help them make their sentences more interesting and entertaining for their reader.
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A simple sentence contains a subject and a verb and expresses one idea or thought. Use simple sentences to introduce the idea of the correct terms for each part of a sentence. Write a simple sentence on the board and name each part of the sentence. Have students write their own sentences on individual whiteboards. They could do this individually or in pairs. Write a selection of these ideas on the board, again naming the different parts. Add a new type of word to a sentence, an adverb or adjective for example. Again have your class add to their sentences. Continue in this way until you have introduced the different parts of a sentence. Have students compare their original sentences to their last sentences to see what a difference the additional words have made to their sentences.
A complex sentence contains a main clause joined to a subordinate clause by a connective or conjunction. Brainstorm a list of connectives with your class. Create a display of these so that your students can see them whenever they are writing. Write a selection of main clauses on strips of paper that you then laminate. Do the same for a selection of subordinate clauses. Put these into pillowslips and have each pair of students draw out a slip of paper from each pillowslip so they have a main and a subordinate clause. They must then use a connective to join the two clauses. Do this several times to generate lots of complex sentences that are then shared with the whole class.
Compound sentences differ from complex sentences in that they consist of two or more main clauses. Find examples of these in texts that you can share with your class. It is important to give examples so that students can fully understand the idea. Write a selection of clauses on the whiteboard. Have students work in groups to discuss ways of putting the clauses together to make compound sentences. Write these on the whiteboard; it is important that students share their ideas with the class so that everyone can learn from each other. Have students go through different texts to find examples of compound sentences. Reading them in print helps students to understand their structure and how they are used.
Show students examples of interesting ways to begin sentences. Take these from a variety of texts so students can see the effect that they have. Write a selection of sentence starters on the board; these can be taken directly from stories you have shared with the class. Have students complete the sentence and feed back their ideas to the rest of the class. Model starting sentences with adverbs, speech, even with similes. Have students choose a piece of previously written work and go back through that work, choosing two or three sentences they could improve. They then rewrite those sentences with a different starter. Compare the effectiveness of the new sentence with the original sentence.
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