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How to Teach Students to Write in Complete Sentences

How to Teach Complete Sentences

Writing in Complete Sentences

Developing writers often have problems writing in complete sentences. Fragmented speech, such as “Catch you later,” and text messaging, such as POS RU GO-N? help to perpetuate this problem. Additionally, students lack understanding of sentence structure, such as the roles of subjects and predicates, phrases, and clauses. I have three suggestions for teaching complete and coherent sentence writing. They work remarkably well, use only a bit of “explicit” grammatical instruction, and teach grammar in the context of oral language and writing.

The first suggestion is a problem-solving approach that does require a bit of prior grammatical knowledge. Tell students to check on “completeness” by using these three proofreading steps: 1. Identify the subject (the “doer”) and the predicate (the action or state of being). To teach subjects and predicates, check out this helpful Subjects and Predicates article:

2. Re-think whether the sentence states a complete thought. To teach recognition of sentence fragments, check out this article on Sentence Fragments. To teach recognition of run-on sentences, check out Run-on Sentences. 3. Read the sentence out loud to ensure that the voice drops down at the end of a declarative, imperative, or exclamatory (up for interrogative). This last one connects with students’ oral language abilities and is especially powerful for your grammatically-challenged kids. Of course, students can force their voices down or up and inaccurately apply this strategy, so encourage natural reading-the out loud part is crucial.

The second suggestion is a sentence revision approach that will necessitate a bit of pre-teaching. Revising with different grammatical sentence openers builds sentence variety and coherence. Students will need a reference sheet, until the models become internalized. Here’s a good one: Grammatical Sentence Openers

For example, when students write “Going to school.” as a complete sentence, students could revise with a prepositional phrase grammatical sentence opener as “To school she is going.”

The third suggestion is “tried and true” sentence combining. Of course, this necessitates teaching phrases and clauses, but my seventh graders catch on quickly with lots of modeled practice. I use lots of sentence revision activities as warm-ups to teach sentence combining. Teaching Essay Strategies includes 64 Sentence Revision activities to improve the quality, variety, and writing style of student sentences.

For example, when students write “After he went to work, before running errands, and picking up fast-food for dinner.” as a complete sentence, students could revise with “After he went to work, he ran errands and picked up fast-food for dinner.”

Check out this complete writing process essay to see a sample of the resources provided in Teaching Essay StrategiesThe download includes writing prompt, paired reading resource, brainstorm activity, prewriting graphic organizer, rough draft directions, response-editing activity, and analytical rubric.

Get the Writing Process Essay FREE Resource:

Find essay strategy worksheets, on-demand writing fluencies, sentence revision and rhetorical stance “openers,” remedial writing lessons, posters, and editing resources to differentiate essay writing instruction in the comprehensive writing curriculum, Teaching Essay Strategies

Find essay strategy worksheets, eight complete writing process essays (four argumentative and four informational/explanatory), writing fluencies, sentence revision activities, remedial writing lessons, and editing resources to differentiate essay writing instruction in Teaching Essay Strategies. Plus, get the comprehensive e-comments download in this fine program.TES

 

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How to Fix Sentence Fragments

How to Teach Complete Sentences

Writing in Complete Sentences

Learning how to fix sentence fragments is challenging to writers of all levels. Inexperienced writers may write in sentence fragments because they do not understand what constitutes a complete thought or because they model their writing after their fragmented speech. Experienced writers get habituated to “memo-style,” dialogue (text messaging), or point-by point writing and struggle writing connected thoughts. Here are a few workable strategies to revise these errors in sentence structure. But first, let’s begin with what constitutes a complete sentence.

A Complete Sentence

  1. tells a complete thought.
  2. has both a subject and a predicate.
  3. has the voice drop down at the end of a statement and the voice go up at the end of a question (in English).

Sentence Fragments

Definition: A sentence fragment consists of  an incomplete thought, a sentence subject, or a sentence predicate and so is an incomplete sentence.

Sentence Fragment Examples:

After he went to work. (Incomplete Thought)

Going to school. (No Sentence Subject)

The young, attractive woman. (No Sentence Predicate)

The Three Types of Sentence Fragments and Their Fixes

1. After they ate dinner. (Incomplete Thought Starting with a Subordinating Conjunction)

The Fix

-Eliminate the subordinating conjunction.

Subordinating Conjunctions:

after, as, although, because, before, how, however, since, so, that, when, whenever, which, while, who, unless, until, when, whenever, whether, while

2. Running fast down the hall. (No Sentence Subject)

The Fix

-Add on a subject (person, place, thing, or idea), i.e. the “do-er” to act on the verb in the sentence. Change the verb form to fit with the subject.

3. Mainly, the passage of time. (No Sentence Predicate)

The Fix

-Add on a verb (physical or mental action or a state of being) to “do” the action of the “do-er,” i.e. the subject.

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics and include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out the YouTube introductory video of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) program.

Pennington Publishing's Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)
Grades 4-8 Programs

The author also provides these curricular “slices” of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) “pie”: the five Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits Grades 4−8; the five Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4−8 programs (digital formats only); and the non-grade-leveled Teaching Grammar and Mechanics with engaging grammar cartoons (available in print and digital formats).

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