Learning about better sentence construction
There are different types of sentences: simple, compound and complex:
- Simple sentences are structured by a single main clause.
Example: I went to the movies.
- Compound sentences are structured by two or more (independent) clauses that are linked together using a conjunction. Each clause conveys its own equal message.
Example: I went to the movies and my friend ate an ice cream.
- Complex sentences are structured by a main clause and one or more other (dependent) clauses. The main clause holds the main message and the other clauses elaborate on it.
Example: I went to the movies while it was raining.
Students in Stage 1 need to write accurate simple and compound sentences and learn to recognise and compose some complex sentences. Teach students to join simple sentences with conjunctions, for example ‘and’, ‘but’ or ‘nor’ or ‘yet’, to construct compound sentences.
Introduce students to complex sentence structure. Teach students to recognise the main clause in complex sentences. Students can use conjunctions to elaborate on the main clause, for example ‘when’, ‘while’ or ‘before’, to construct complex sentences.
Engage students with frequent experiences of hearing, reading and viewing texts with a variety of sentence structures. Prompt students to consider what sentence structures they can recognise and how they have been used to enhance the text.
Teach students how to join sentences using different conjunctions for different purposes (for example and, but, because). Encourage students to re-read their work (individually or in pairs) and check for simple or repetitive sentence structure that they can improve using compound and complex sentence structure.
Provide oral and written sentence patterns and scaffolds for compound and complex sentences that students can vary by inserting their own preferences, e.g. I like books about animals, but I don’t like ones about magic.
Activities to support the strategies
Sentences can grow!
This activity can implemented whole class, in small groups, partners or 1:1. It can be adapted to suit subject matter in any learning area. It will support students to become familiar with common conjunctions and recognise when they can use compound sentence structure in writing.
- Explain that conjunctions link ideas in sentences using a text with compound sentences.
- Group students and provide an array of paired simple sentences e.g. (Julie bought 3 pencils. She lost 2 of them.) (Paul has a football. He threw it across the yard.)
- Provide each group with long strips of paper to record their compound sentences:
- Ask students to turn the simple sentence pairs into compound sentences using joining conjunctions.
- Differentiate this task for your students by providing a list of conjunctions to limit or expand conjunction choices, adding another clause to create a longer compound sentence or a complex sentence.
- Extension: Students look for pairs of sentences in their own work that can be made into compound sentences.
This activity can be implemented with a whole class or in small groups in any learning area. It will support students to become familiar with identifying conjunctions in texts, categorising the purpose of the conjunction and create a resource for students to draw on when composing compound and complex sentences.
- Prepare two posters for display with the headings ‘conjunctions that join’ &‘conjunctions that add information’.
- Identify familiar conjunctions with the class and record these on the appropriate poster, e.g. The conjunction ‘and’ joins two simple sentences in a compound sentence so it belongs with the ‘conjunctions that join’; The conjunction ‘before’ adds information to a main idea in a complex sentence so it belongs with the ‘conjunctions that add information’.
- Introduce a shared verbal, visual or written text that contains compound and complex sentences (relevant to your students’ learning focus and context) and explain that students are looking for conjunctions in the text.
- Model or guide the identification of the first few conjunctions that appear in compound and complex sentences in the text and ask students how they can be categorised. Record conjunctions on the correct poster and provide clarifications as necessary.
- Follow-up the joint construction of the conjunction banks with a written response, e.g. ask students to write a compound or a complex sentence, in response to the shared text, using a conjunction from the banks.
- Continue to add to the conjunction bank following or during shared verbal, visual or written texts and encourage students to refer the conjunction banks during written tasks.