Monday, July 23, 2018

Enhancing Grammar by Imitating Sentences

In 20 years of teaching, I've learned a thing or two about teaching grammar. Specifically, I've noticed:

  • Worksheets don't work!
  • Learners have trouble attaching meaning to grammar terms
  • What's taught in grammar class doesn't always show up in student writing

It's not all bad news, though. In fact, I've learned a fantastic technique for helping students to become better writers AND learn grammar at the same time. This technique is simple, easy to use, and easy to differentiate. What is it?

Imitating sentences

That's it. And this year, I really want to go back to this technique (I've been rather pressured to do the worksheet method over the last two years) to start the year.

Benefits of imitating sentences

  • Students learn how to identify the chunks of sentences: Sentence parts like subject, verb, and prepositional phrase become more concrete when students break sentences into meaningful chunks.
  • Students gain control over their writing: When imitating sentences, students learn how to merge content with form. They don't use a particular verb form because it's the first one they think of, but because it's the verb form that is used in that sentence.
  • Students try new forms: Sentence imitating is a great way to get kids noticing and using more sophisticated sentence forms. It's a powerful way to help students notice the beautiful portability of adverbs and adverbial phrases, the use of punctuation in a sentence, and the way that authors can use repetition for style and effect.

Getting started with imitating sentences

To read more about sentence imitating and sentence composing, visit this website by Don and Jenny Killgallon.

Here is an introductory PowerPoint that I made to share with my students. (The formatting problems resolve if you download...sorry! Slideshare doesn't like text boxes very much.)

You don't have to have fancy materials...all you need are some great sentences and a sense of adventure! Take sentences from your literature series, from a book that you are sharing, from the day's read aloud.

When I taught fourth grade, I put together a targeted sentence writing curriculum that went week by week through the Common Core grammar standards. It worked so well! Now I'm thinking that I'll have to come up with something similar for sixth grade...sigh...

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