Kids growing up in our sound bite society can find it difficult to understand what makes a good sentence. Quality writing combines many different elements, and getting everything straight, from spelling to punctuation to grammar, can be challenging. Beginning with simple sentences and helping kids understand the role each word plays can help.
Talk About It
Help your primary students understand good sentence structure by talking about simple sentences. Use two or three-word sentences that are composed of a noun, a verb, and something that describes the verb or noun. Put the sentences you are using on a flip chart, overhead projector or smart board. Read each sentence aloud and point to each word as you read it. Have your students focus on each word and describe what that word does in the sentence. For example, if your sentence reads, “Mom walks the dog,” ask the students who the sentence is about and what she is doing. Remind students that good sentences give us all these pieces of information in a way that makes sense in both time and place.
Write it Down
After talking about each of your sample sentences, have students write down five simple sentences of their own. Make sure they only write three to five words for each sentence so the sentences remain simple. Ask one or two students to read their sentences aloud while you write them down on the overhead projector or smart board. Talk about the sentences the students wrote, breaking each one apart to show again how the sentence is put together, who it is about and what the subject is doing.
Putting Words Together
Once you have established what makes a good, simple sentence, give each student a prepared handout that has three columns of words: subjects, verbs and descriptions. Have your students match three words together so that each sentence makes sense. Have fun with this activity by encouraging your students to combine words so that the sentences are silly. For example: Steve dances with birds, or Jane eats crickets. Have the students share their silly sentence combinations with the rest of the class.
Writing Silly Stories
Using simple sentences to write a story helps primary students see how good sentences work together to get ideas across. Once all students have completed the previous activity and you have shared sentences as a group, place the students into cooperative learning groups and have them use the sentences to write a silly story. Each sentence must make sense on its own, but students can combine the sentences to make their story interesting and fun. Have students draw illustrations for their stories and then have one person from each group share what the group has written.
Patti Richards has been a writer since 1990. She writes children’s books and articles on parenting, women's health and education. Her credits include San Diego Family Magazine, Metro Parent Magazine, Boys' Quest Magazine and many others. Richards has a Bachelor of Science in English/secondary education from Welch College.