Teaching Sentences in the Primary Classroom
As a first grade teacher we see so much growth in our students from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. It’s truly amazing how far they go in the course of one year. One area where substantial growth happens is writing. Transitioning from writing single words or short sentence fragments to complete sentences is amazing! But there’s so much that goes into writing sentences. Here’s some of my favorite activities for teaching sentences.
You might be wondering what the big deal is. After all, our students don’t have any trouble putting together spoken sentences. But moving from speaking in sentences to writing a good, complete sentence is very different. There are many different concepts that need to be taught when teaching sentences to young writers. Here’s how I break it down so that students can learn how to write good sentences from the beginning.
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I always start at the very beginning and help my students learn what a sentence is and what a sentence isn’t! For many students the concept of a sentence is review from kindergarten. But I’ve found that taking the time to do this review really pays off.
As part of this review we also talk about the important things that every sentence has:
- a subject and a predicate
- tells one thought or idea
- starts with a capital letter
- ends with punctuation
Once we have a really solid foundation on what a sentence is then we move into different types of sentences.
Now don’t let the fact that I wrote all that out with just a few sentences make it sound like we get through all these skills and concepts quickly. Each of these takes one or more lessons and lots and lots of practice opportunities.
my favorite activities for teaching sentences
subjects and predicates
Teaching my students that each sentence has a subject and predicate is always where we start because this is the basis of a complete sentence. Although I often introduce this in different terms, my students learn these terms too! I teach my students that the subject tells who or what the sentence is about and that the predicate tells what the subject is doing.
We love sorting subjects and predicates and then matching them up to make real or silly sentences. I probably don’t need to tell you that silly sentences are often the class favorite.
Throughout our lessons on sentences I always reinforce writing conventions. I hold students responsible for starting each sentence with a capital letter and ending with a punctuation mark until I teach additional writing conventions.
As we learn more grammar skills students are held accountable for using them correctly in their writing too.
types of sentences
After learning about writing a good, complete sentence, we move on to different types of sentences. My students are always amazed to find out that there are different types of sentences. This is a great time to reinforce that although some things will be different, like the punctuation mark, all these sentence types must still have the sentence requirements they already learned about.
Although I generally tell students there are four types of sentences they will learn about, I always teach them one at a time. This teaching time includes our lesson and practice. I’ve found that students pick up each sentence type quicker when they are are taught one at a time.
I start with a Powerpoint lesson that teaches the sentence type name, it’s purpose and the punctuation mark that goes with it. We do lots and lots of examples as we walk through each of these things. Built into the Powerpoint lesson is a series of interactive practice sentences. The students love being an active part of the lesson and I’ve found that this really helps with engagement and ultimately learning.
After our lesson and group practice, students have multiple opportunities to practice with the sentence type. I love adding each sentence type to our writing notebooks so students can refer back to it all year long. We also practice writing the target sentence type and searching for those sentences in books and around the classroom.
We follow this general format for all four sentence types. Then, after they have all be taught individually we do more practice that includes all sentence types together. This mixed sentence type practice includes hands-on sorts, cut and paste activities and writing activities too!
As we review sentence types I like to weave this review throughout the day. When we hear an announcement or when someone speaks to our class, I will often ask students to identify the type of sentence. This helps them connect sentence types to their everyday life. It also helps make the connection that spoken sentences and written sentences have the same qualities.
I also spend time focusing on the punctuation related to each sentence type. The students love learning about question marks and exclamation points. It gives them the ability to add some variety and voice to their writing.
I introduce Punctuation Pals when we focus on punctuation. As I talk about each type of punctuation I add a Punctuation Pal poster to our wall or anchor chart. This gives students a reference tool to use as they practice using the different punctuation marks.
Then, just like everything else we do, there’s lots of practice related to punctuation. After students learn about different punctuation marks and the types of sentences they go with, I reinforce this as students write independently too.
Review, review, review
Once students have been taught the fundamentals of sentences, it is important to review all year long. This review might happen as you conference with your students during writing block, or as a daily sentence review during morning meeting. Whatever you choose to do, just make sure that you continue to reinforce these important sentence skills. With practice, your students will be writing great sentences.
Resources for teaching sentences
I’ve pulled together all of the resources that I use for teaching sentences and put them into two resource packs. The first set focuses on identifying and writing a complete sentence. This also includes my activities for subject and predicate, and basic writing conventions.
The second resource includes everything I use to teach about the different types of sentences. The Powerpoint lesson, posters, interactive notebook pages and all the activities are included. It’s jam-packed with everything you need to teach about different types of sentences.
You can find both of these resources in my store at Teachers Pay Teachers. If you are teaching both topics then I recommend the Sentence Bundle! This bundles includes both resources and even saves you a little money.
save these ideas for teaching sentences
Pin these ideas for teaching sentences to your favorite classroom Pinterest board so you can come back when you are ready to teach, practice or review sentences with your budding writers.