Recently I received a request from another Mama wanting to figure out how to help her 5th grader tackle sentence structure.
Now, as a writer I hate to admit it but unfortunately English was a difficult subject for me. Well, at least the grammar and rules of writing part that is. In fact, if it wasn’t for the ever handy little red line (spell-check) and google search bar I’m not so sure I would even consider being a blogger today!
Nonetheless, my fans come first! So here is what I gathered from all my research on sentence structure for middle school students.
I did throw in a little experience I had putting some of this to use on my oldest (a kindergartner) so bare with me if this isn’t strictly for a ten to eleven year-old.
Now, how do you teach sentence structure to your little one? To start, we need to understand the basics.
ONE: Thankfully there are only four basic sentence structures.
1. Tammy is bored.
A simple sentence has just one main clause (also known as an independent clause.)
2. Tammy is bored and Jacob is hungry.
A compound sentence combines two independent clauses.
3. Tammy played while Jacob ate lunch.
A complex sentence has both one independent clause and at least one dependent clause.
The difference between an independent clause and a dependent clause is fairly simple. A dependent clause is not a complete thought. It contains a subject and a verb but it does complete a sentence on its own, hence it is dependent on the independent clause in order to form a complete sentence.
As well a dependent clause is used to answer your “WH” questions (Who, What, When, Where… Etc.) Therefore it has one particular job, in this example it is taking on the task of answering what Jacob did while Tammy played.
4. Tammy played and Jacob ate lunch while their mom did the dishes.
A compound-complex sentence. Now don’t worry, this looks like a lot but it is not! It is literally a compound and a complex sentence put together. As long as you understand each of those separately then you already know that all we did was combine the two to create another basic sentence structure.
That’s it! You just went over the basics to form a sentence. How easy was that?!
Next we need to go over grammar.
TWO: Proper grammar is everything.
As stated in The Brain Quest book, Everything You Need To Ace English Language Arts, grammar is not what words mean but how they fit together. So of course this is key to sentence structure. (I highly recommend these books!!)
There is a lot to grammar and its rules, so we are only going to focus on the beginners version of grammar basics.
Subject and Predicates
The subject is the star of the show! This is the person, animal, or object that is the main focus of the sentence.
The predicate is going to tell your reader something about the subject. For instance what the subject does, did or will do. It gives the sentence action.
Another important part of grammar, punctuation is essentially the nuts and bolts of a sentence. For instance, we use commas to clarify what our sentence means. (commas, periods, exclamation points, etc.)
“I love cooking, my family and my dog, Spot.”
“I love cooking my family and my dog Spot.”
See how important grammar is to sentence structure? In this example without those commas the entire sentence changes meaning. Commas help define not only how we read a sentence (when and were to pause) but what that sentence is saying.
I recommend practicing this by creating sentences and having your little one place commas and other punctuation marks in the correct places. This way they get some hands on learning. Here are some FREE PRINTABLES you can download to get you started.
THREE: Eight Parts of Speech
Once you have the basics of grammar down, its important to learn about the different parts of speech.
A person, place or thing.
Takes the place of a noun (it, you, he, she, they, etc.)
Shows action and used to describe a state, or occurrence, and forming the main part of the predicate of a sentence.
Adds depth to a noun or pronoun by describing it in many ways. (running, happy, little, etc.)
Adverbs will modify a verb to give it more detail, they answer the when, where, how, or how often questions.
A word used to connect nouns or pronouns or express their relation to each other.
(The man jumped over the rock.)
Connects two words, phrases or clauses. (and, but, or, etc.)
Used to show emotion, or an exclamation. (Ah!, Yay!, Uh-Oh!, etc.)
Marks used in writing to separate sentences and their elements, also used to clarify meaning.
Getting your kids interested.
You want your child to actively want to learn, right? Find a topic or trend that they are into and use it!
For instance, my daughter loves the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (I know, how awesome is that!) so I asked her to tell me a story about them and we would pick a friend to share her story with. However, we have to write that story down as a comic book so that it can be something her friend will be able to save for a long time.
FIVE: Visual and hands-on learning.
Next, I made index cards with common words we used, (Donnie, Raph, Leo, Mikey, who, what, when, and, he, they… etc.) I left some cards blank, taped over them with box tape and we filled them in as needed with dry erase markers.
Try and think about your child’s story and keep in mind you want to make this fun for them. Remember the goal is how to build a sentence, so things like spelling and repetitive words aren’t the main focus. You want to be careful not to over critique things that draw them away from the task at hand.
Try to repeatedly use correct grammar verbiage. Say things like, “Okay, now we need a punctuation mark here.” or “Can you think of an adjective that fits here?” Repetition is a great way to learn, half the time your kids won’t even realize they are learning! It will just start to flow naturally.
Six: Celebrate success!
Once we completed a sentence I noticed my daughter immediately wanted to jump over to creating an image for each sentence, almost like a mini celebration. If this works for you then great! If not then try to compromise. I started having her act out scenes instead of taking so much time to draw each sentence. This way she still got to celebrate her success but we didn’t turn this lesson into a full week-long project.
By the time we completed our comic book my four year old was asking me if I could find the noun during our reading time. It was a big bonus that this learning experience traveled over into other subjects of learning!
Thank you for reading and have fun learning with your own littles!
*Be sure to check out these links for some more information and FREE PRINTABLES!!
“Part of Speech Sort” Worksheet
Scrambled Sentences: Crazy Cakes
Work on Writing: Run-On Sentences
Sentence Building for Beginning Readers & Writers
Capitalization Rules: Proper Nouns
Commas and Coordinating Conjunctions
Have a request of your own? Don’t hesitate to reach out to me! Click here to send me an email.