Sentences are the backbone of all writing, especially essays. Teaching the basic sentence form involves making sure that students understand what a sentence is and what parts must be included to make up a complete sentence. It is also important to explain the types of errors that can occur when writing sentences. Use these steps to teach students to write a basic sentence.

What is a Sentence?

Start out explaining that a sentence is a complete thought, not a partial one.

Explain that a sentence can be a statement, question or exclamation. Make sure that students understand the difference between these types of sentences.

Remind students to begin the sentence with a capital letter.

Remind students that a sentence must end in appropriate punctuation--question mark, period or exclamation mark. Make sure that students understand that a question has to end with a question mark and so on--it might not be obvious to them.

Parts of a Sentence

Discuss subjects. The subject of a sentence is a noun or pronoun. Make a list of types of subjects: people, animals, objects, pronouns and others.

Discuss verbs. Make sure that students understand that a verb shows the sentence’s action.

Discuss all types of verbs: active verbs, passive verbs, irregular verbs and so on. Students sometimes have a difficult time understanding that “is” is a verb.

Make sure that students understand the difference between verbs and verbals. Often students mistake a verbal (verb form that ends in ing) with a verb.

Discuss subject-verb agreement. Make sure that students understand that if the noun is plural, the verb should also be plural and other aspects of subject-verb agreement.

Discuss objects. Because the most basic sentence can have only a subject and verb, the discussion of objects may come later. Discuss types of objects and their roles in sentences once students have mastered subjects and verbs.

Provide lots of examples of sentences for your students. Have them identify subjects and verbs in the sentences as a class.

Make students practice writing complete sentences on their own. The more they write, the easier it will become for them.

Avoiding Sentence Errors

Discuss incomplete sentences, or sentence fragments.

Discuss run-on sentences and comma splices.

Discuss subject-verb agreement errors.

Provide lots of examples of sentence errors for students.

Use practice exercises and assignments to help students identify and correct sentence errors and to identify the parts of a sentence. Discuss this as a class and assign work to them individually.