How often do you say “That’s not a complete sentence.” to your students. Because I used to say it way too often. In fact I felt like that was all I said with every writing piece. Then I reflected and realized that I was expecting students to use complete sentences in paragraph writing when I had never taught them how to write complete sentences in sentence format. Our curriculum jumped right over sentence writing to paragraph writing and we couldn’t figure out why the kids struggled. So from that point on, I made a point to work on my sentence writing worksheets first.
How do I work on good quality sentences?
So how exactly should we teach sentence writing? Well we should begin with what makes up a sentence. Often we tell students that a sentence has a capital and a period, but don’t explain the rest. So they start a paragraph with a capital and end 5 sentences later with a period. Not understanding that there were many sentences in the middle there.
Instead, we need to help students find the subject (who is doing something) and the predicate (what are they doing). We need to emphasize that the sentence should make sense with plenty of details. However, we also want to remind students that if we get to a new subject doing something new, or even the same subject doing something new, then we are probably to a second sentence.
Once students know these rules – place them somewhere they can be easily referenced. This should be a clear and organized bulletin board. (Check my recent blog post for 10 tips on how to best use bulletin boards.) Encourage students to refer back to these rules every time they work on sentence writing. And then have them work on sentence writing – a lot – in centers, in other subjects, whenever possible.
What will my students gain from single sentence writing?
I know the first question will be “But aren’t students supposed to write paragraphs because they are writing in context?” That is absolutely true for strong writers. However, students didn’t learn to speak in paragraphs. They learned to speak in words, then simple sentences, then complex sentences and then multiple sentences. They should be learning to write in the same way they learned to speak. Step by step.
By teaching students in this manner, they will gain confidence in their writing. They will build their vocabulary, and build detailed sentences, without simply adding another sentence or the word “and”. Learning to write single sentences first teaches students to be better writers overall.
What single sentence writing worksheets do you use?
I never have time to teach anything in isolation. So when I am working on sentence writing, I incorporate our phonics patterns and word families. After introducing these words, I give students a sentence writing worksheets from my word family interactive notebook resources. These give you three, leveled worksheets which makes discreet differentiation simple. Each word includes a picture clue to help with vocabulary, and students are asked to write just one sentence. After students have written their sentences, I conference with students about how to add detail, or make their sentence more complete. Then when we introduce a new set of words, I repeat the process.
If you’d like to try out this routine with your students, you can download the free Interactive Notebook Pages for the ACK word family from my Teachers Pay Teachers store. By giving students a word and picture clue, you are building their vocabulary, their spelling, and their sentence writing!