Ideas for Teaching Sentence Structure

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Sentences are the building blocks of writing. To effectively compose any type of written work, students must first understand the proper structure of a sentence. Teachers can practice this concept skill with their pupils by engaging them in hands-on activities that create opportunities for practicing proper sentence production and identification of parts of speech.

1 SVO Wheels

Teach you students simple subject, verb, object sentence formation by creating SVO wheels. To create these wheels, students need sheets of corrugated cardboard, brads and markers. Help each student trace three circles, each measuring approximately six inches in diameter, on a sheet of corrugated cardboard. Assist the students in cutting these circles out and poking a hole in the center of each. Ask each student to label one circle Subject, the second Verb and the third Object. Draw lines to divide each circle into eight equal wedges. Instruct your students to fill each wedge with a word or group of words that fits the sentence type. For example, a student could fill her subject circle by writing a girl, the boys, my cat and so forth into the wedges.

Once students have labeled their wedges, assist them in attaching each circle to a sheet of corrugated cardboard by placing a brad in the center. The students should attach their circles in a row, placing subject first, then verb, then object. Explain to the students that by turning each circle they can build new sentences. Allow the students to turn the circles, placing a new verb in the verb position, a new object in the object position and so forth to create novel sentences.

Vocabulary Builder

2 Sentence Unscramble

Students race to unscramble a sentence, using their knowledge of sentence structure to properly order the words in this activity. To prepare for this activity, type out a long sentence in large font. Print several copies of this sentence, each on a different colored paper. Cut all of the words apart, and place the pieces of each sentence in a separate envelope.

When students arrive in class, divide them into groups, and give each group one envelope. Tell the students that they must race to put the words in proper order and that the first group to accomplish the task wins a prize. Allow the students to race to order the words, and reward the first successful team.

3 Color Coded Sentences

Students develop a better understanding of parts of speech and how these sentence parts combine to make a full sentence by creating color coded sentences. To prepare for this activity, type out several sentences that are at your students' reading level.

When students arrive in class, present them each with a copy of these sentences. Tell them that their job is to color code these sentences. Instruct the students to get out a sheet of notebook paper and coloring supplies. Ask each student to make a key in the corner of his sheet of paper, writing the parts of speech in the box and assigning each part of speech a different color.

Once students have properly created a key, ask them to begin to recopy the typed sentences, writing each word in a different color based on the word's part of speech as it is used within the sentence. Hang the colorful work up as a classroom decoration upon completion.

Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.