During summer school, we often have time to work on just a few focused skills. I knew my group of teens ahead of time, and knew that they had difficulty with sentences.
The following quick strategy works well to develop the following skill areas:
- writing to a prompt
- writing complete sentences
- initiating the writing process
- increasing sentence complexity
- improving sentence variety
Step 1: Collect some magazines. This is a good use for those things you cleared out of your room at the end of the year.
Step 2: Cut out phrases. Focus on phrases that are open-ended, and force your brain into finishing them with more than one word: “If you only…” ~ “Remember a time…” ~ “Opportunities don’t…”
Step 3: Allow kids to choose 5 phrases. This task is self-differentiating, if you allow kids to choose. Some will choose easier phrases (“I want to…”), while others will choose more complex ones (“In the end, it’s…”).
Step 4: Students write their sentences down. Don’t let them just finish – it’s important for them to write their sentences from the initial capital to the end mark. Instruct students to underline the phrase that they chose in their sentences.
Step 5: Keep a sentence journal. You can collect sentences in a communal area, or have kids write them in a notebook.
Step 6: Put the phrases in a ziploc bag. Add to them as you go through the year, and use this as a center activity.
Write the ending. The easiest version of this activity is to finish the end of a sentence. You can make the task easier by providing phrases that only work at the beginning, or you can make it more challenging by instructing students to find phrases that make a good sentence beginning, and finish the sentence.
Write the beginning. This is a little more difficult, but easier than the next task. Students pick a phrase that finishes an idea, and then build the beginning. You can scaffold by pre-selecting appropriate phrases.
Write the end. This is the most challenging, but leads to the most complex sentences. Students use the base phrase and build the beginning and the end of the thought.
Speed Sentences. Post a phrase on the board or put it in the center of the table. Have students suggest sentences round-robin or popcorn style. I like to write them on the Promethean board as they say them. They can get pretty creative and funny: we had great fun with “Dads always…”
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Let me know if you try this out with your kids – post a pic in the comments!