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English Teacher's Helpful Hints

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tutorheatherSuper Member!

United States

April 7, 2012

Hi all!

I like to do an activity with my students called "Sentence building."

Together, we create complex sentences by taking a series of steps.

We start with a very simple sentence.

Then, I tell the student to add a sentence component, a specific piece of information or a part of speech (like an adjective/adverb, etc.) and we continue building in this manner until we have created interesting, sophisticated mini-masterpieces! :)

It's important that the sentence is rewritten after EACH step to demonstrate the creation of proper structure . This is similar to how we do math problems when we are asked to show our steps.

Here is how it's done:

First, I give a simple sentence, which contains a simple subject (noun) and a simple predicate (verb).

Example:

The whale swam.

 I then ask the student to create particular facts to add to the sentence. In this case, I am asking the student to show where the whale is swimming. The student can place this fact anywhere in the sentence he or she would like, as long as it's placed correctly.

(near Longbeach, California)

The whale swam near Longbeach, CA.

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Next, I ask them to add an adjective and an adverb.

(blue, quickly)

The blue whale swam quickly near Longbeach, CA.

Once that is complete, I ask them to add one (or more than one) prepositional phrase to the sentence.

(with the white scar, on his fin)

The blue whale with the white scar on his fin swam quickly near Longbeach, CA.

Next, I ask them to insert a conjunction somewhere, and to make any adjustments necessary.

You can ALWAYS add more facts/components if you'd like to try.  Be creative! It's your sentence. I only gave you the "skeleton" of the sentence.

(and)

The blue whale with the white scar on his fin and a 22-pound tongue swam quickly near Longbeach, CA.

Then, I might ask them to add a dependent clause.

(where I had been staying on vacation)

The blue whale with the white scar on his fin and the 22-pound tongue swam quickly near LongBeach, CA, where I had been staying on vacation.

Then, I ask for the student to add something else, perhaps a phrasal verb. In this case we will use "breaking out of," a phrasal which means "to escape from a place by force." (The prisoners broke out of jail and are traveling to Canada.)

After breaking out of the aquarium, the blue whale with the white scar on his fin and the 22-pound tongue swam quickly near LongBeach, CA, where I had been staying on vacation.

TA-DA!!!

(Ta-Da **pronounced like tah-dah** is used when a person is revealing something that he/she might be  proud of or excited about. It's just a silly expression, but most of us love learning those)!!

I am saying "Ta-da!" because I am revealing the final product -- an interesting, correctly  structured sentence.

It's much better than "The whale swam," right?

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If you'd like to try this, I'd be happy to offer you some comments. The best approach to this exercise is to work slowly so you can ponder where to place each word or sentence element.

Assembling sentences can be like putting a puzzle together. If you think of it like a game, it might not be so stressful or tedious.

Now it's your turn!

Your instructions:

Simple sentence:

The authorities searched.


(***Make sure your sentence reveals who or what the authorities are searching for, and when this search is happening. You can use a date, a time of day, etc. That is up to you.)

1. Add an adjective and an adverb.

2. Add one (or more) prepositional phrase(s) to the subject and one (or more) to the predicate.

3. Add a conjunction.

4. Add a dependent phrase.

5. Use the phrasal "figure out." This phrasal verb means "to discover, to understand, to find the answer." (EX: I figured out that the woman was really my mother, and not my aunt!)

Do your best. The challenge of this activity is to fit all of these components into ONE sentence. Building complex sentences is difficult for anyone who is learning a language.

I will leave feedback as soon as I can.

Have fun! I admire you all so much!

Heather

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