Although Sprite can write a nice paragraph already, I’ve been working in depth with her on writing good sentences. She has the cognitive ability to analyze the grammar of sentences, and I’m introducing the terms simple, compound, and complex. But those terms are not my focus. Instead, I want her to realize the various ways sentences can be crafted. It’s far more important that someone can write a good sentence than label that sentence.
My long term goal is that by eighth grade she can write a full five paragraph essay on demand. So step one is sentence writing. Of course, the reality is that as we’re working on paragraphs and even on essays, our study of sentences will continue. Writing is very cyclical (a lot like living math, actually).
Here are my current goals for each sentence she writes:
- begins with a capital letter
- ends with punctuation
- uses punctuation correctly within the sentence
- no run-ons or fragments
And on top of that, I want her to use varied types of sentences in her writing, including compound sentences and complex sentences.
On my freebies page you can find the resources I created to help Sprite learn the different sentence patterns. After an introduction to the sentence patterns, you can make up lots of exercises for practicing them. Here are some examples.
Teaching sentence patterns
- Have your child label the pattern of selected sentences. (It’s best when these sentences are taken from a book you are reading.)
- Hand a book to your child and have her locate examples of each sentence pattern.
- Have your child create her own sentences for each pattern. (If a boost is needed, give a list of words such as vocabulary or spelling words to use in the sentences.)
- Have your child rework existing sentences, using all of the different sentence patterns.
It’s all a very living approach to language. I use workbook exercises sparingly in favor of real living texts and doing our own writing. That means that we can spend less on language arts curriculum and more on real books.
I did buy Evan Moor’s Writing Fabulous Sentences and Paragraphs. It’s not necessary, but Sprite enjoys workbooks. (That’s probably because we use them so rarely.) Anyway, sometimes it’s nice to have an assignment to just hand over with the directions to “do page 26.” The front of the book has some sentence exercises that complement my sentence patterns material well. But then we take it farther, of course.
I use the “little, often” approach with writing. We do short (little), daily (often) mini lessons until the concept seems well internalized. Besides the mini lesson, I try to point out interesting sentence patterns (or errors!) in the curriculum we use so that Sprite can see that these sentence forms are not an isolated skill but an integrated part of our entire language.