Interactive Sentence Types

By on March 20, 2013

Teaching grammar can be a painful process and is usually met with great resistance from students. When I mention the word grammar or ask my students to take out their grammar books, I hear: "Ah man..."; "What? Do we have to?"; "Psshhhh"; and occasionally I get "Can we watch a movie instead?" This last request is my favorite. It ranks right up there with, "Did we do anything important, yesterday?" Which I answer very politely: Nope

Over the years, I have learned that teaching grammar is an art. Although there are well written grammar workbooks out there, students do not get excited about the work. And I rarely see transfer from what they do in those books to how they write.

My experience in the classroom has taught me to focus on the important things and do them well. In other words, I limit the scope of what I teach so that my students meet the learning targets I have outlined for the course. LiteracyTA recommends identifying a select set of skills that are taught over a year so that teachers have time for creative instruction and reteaching. 

I have seen tremendous growth in my students' writing ability when I teach a select set of language skills. My grammar lessons focus on the following elements.  

  1. Parts of speech (depending on the class, I may focus only on verbs, adjectives, and adverbs)
  2. Four sentence types (simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences)
  3. Comma usage (lists at the front and back of sentences, interrupting elements, appositive phrases, attributive tags, etc.) 

My friend, colleague, and fellow LiteracyTA Coach Maxine Sagapolutele and I love to develop engaging grammar lessons. We want to teach the "nuts and bolts" but then we quickly move to activities that get students interacting with the language. Most of the time, we have students build flip charts and small books out of colored paper. Our students use these "foldables" to take notes during lecture and whole group discussions.

For the past few months, we have been taking notes and practicing the four sentence types (see above).

Once our students have the knowledge, they are ready to play with the language. Maxine and I decided to utilize our small whiteboards and asked students to create human sentences.

I used the teacher whiteboard at the front of the class to identify student responsibilities. It looked something like this.

  • Row 1: articles
  • Row 2: nouns
  • Row 3: adjectives
  • Row 4: verbs
  • Row 5: adverbs
  • Row 6: prepositions
  • Row 7: pronouns
  • Row 8: punctuation

I asked the students to think of a subject. Their task was to write a simple sentence about that subject. Student wrote words or punctuation marks on their boards and walked them to the front of the room. I sat back and watched them talk about parts of speech, sentence types, and proper punctuation. They were creating sentences in a collaborative way. They were talking and working together to form the best sentence possible. They were learning how things like adverbs, adjectives, and prepositional phrases can make sentences clearer and more sophisticated.


After they demonstrated that they could write simple sentences, we moved to compound sentences. The students had a blast. They were physically, socially, and intellectually engaged. We were in the LTA Environment.

At the end of these types of activities, my students ask, "When are we doing this again?" How refreshing. This is what I want to hear. I want my students excited and motivated to learn. I guess my students like grammar, after all. I just needed some good old fashion creative teaching and a focus on developing language skills.

To see a list of our language skills, go to our Common Core Language Standards page.

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The Conversation

Kevin Sullivan Kevin Sullivan 4/2/2013

Wow, great physical involvement with a grammar lesson. I am going to do this with algebra expressions and PEMDAS order of operations.

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Mr. LeMaster Mr. LeMaster 4/2/2013

Great idea, Kevin. I think this would work great with PEMDAS. Today, I made it a competition. Boys against girls. You know how they love the battle of the sexes. The team with the longest sentence won. They had to use sentence types to grow their sentences. It was a lot of fun. Let me know how the "PEMDAS Boards" go.

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Literacy Standards In Action

We've mapped our literacy lessons and reading, speaking, and writing skills to state standards, Common Core, and NGSS. The standards are "the what" to teach. Our lessons are "the how" to meet the expectations defined by the standards. Click on the links below to view our quick reference table that maps standards to literacy lessons.

Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
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