BlogELA for KidsHow to Teach Sentence Structure to Kids: The Ultimate Guide

How to Teach Sentence Structure to Kids: The Ultimate Guide

As parents and educators, we play a crucial role in helping young minds develop strong communication skills. One essential aspect of this journey is teaching sentence structure—the backbone of effective writing. Providing children with the right guidance and tools can nurture their creativity and empower them to convey their message with clarity and precision.

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In this blog post, we’ll delve into the art of teaching sentence writing to kids, equipping them with the skills they need to become confident wordsmiths.

What is Sentence Structure?

Sentence structure is how we arrange words in a sentence. When we write or speak, we use sentence structure to ensure our sentences are easy to understand and sound right.

In a sentence, we usually have a subject (who or what the sentence is about) and a predicate (what the subject is doing or what is happening to the subject). For example, in “The cat sleeps,” ‘The cat’ is the subject, and ‘sleeps’ is the predicate.

That’s sentence structure – it’s just about putting words in the right order so everyone can understand what we mean!

4 Types of Sentences

Tutor helping girl to write

When we talk or write, we use different types of sentences to share our thoughts, ask questions, or show our feelings. Understanding different types of sentences is an imperative part of teaching sentence structure to kids. Here are four main types:

  1. Declarative Sentences: These are the most common. They tell you something and end with a period. For example, “The dog is playing.”
  2. Interrogative Sentences: These sentences ask a question and end with a question mark. Like, “What time is it?”
  3. Exclamatory Sentences: We use these when we are excited or surprised about something. They end with an exclamation mark. For example, “Wow, that’s amazing!”
  4. Imperative Sentences: These give commands or make requests. They often end with a period, but can also end with an exclamation mark. An example is, “Please close the door.”

What are Sentence Clauses?

Sentence clauses are the building blocks of sentences and are essential for understanding the structure of a sentence. A clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a verb (predicate) and expresses a complete thought. It can function independently as a complete sentence or as part of a larger sentence.

There are two main types of sentence clauses:

1. Independent Clauses

An independent clause, also known as a main clause, can stand alone as a complete sentence because it expresses a complete thought.

Example: She went to the store.

Here ‘She went to the store’ is an independent clause that can function as a separate sentence.

2. Dependent Clauses

A dependent clause, also known as a subordinate clause, cannot stand alone as a complete sentence because it does not express a complete thought. It relies on an independent clause to complete its meaning. 

How to identify: Dependent clauses usually begin with subordinating conjunctions or relative pronouns.

Example: After she finished her work,

Here the dependent clause needs to be combined with the independent clause to form complete sentences.

It’s important to note that dependent clauses provide additional information but cannot function independently. 

Related Reading: How Can Teachers Help English Language Learners

Teaching Sentence Structure 101

A sentence consists of various elements such as subjects, verbs, objects, adjectives, adverbs, and other parts of speech. The structure of a sentence follows a specific order or pattern, which can vary depending on the language.

Some Basic Sentence Structures

In English, the basic sentence structures are:

Subject-verb-object (SVO): Here, the subject performs the action expressed by the verb on the object. 

Example: Sarah (subject) loves (verb) ice cream (object).

Subject-verb (SV): The structure consists of just a subject and a verb without an object. 

Example: The bird (subject) sings (verb).

Subject-verb-adverb (SVA): The structure adds an adverb to provide more information about the action. 

Example: She (subject) sings (verb) beautifully (adverb).

Subject-verb-indirect object-direct object (SVIDO): in this structure, there is a verb, an indirect object, and a direct object. The indirect object receives the direct object. 

Example: He (subject) gave (verb) his sister (indirect object) a book (direct object).

The arrangement of these elements within a sentence is crucial in determining its clarity, coherence, and overall meaning. Teaching these different types of sentences acquaints a child with different kinds of sentence structures, thereby improving their language proficiency.

How to Teach a Child to Write Sentences

Teacher helping students with writing

No matter how simple or complex a child’s writing abilities may be, teaching them how to write effective sentences is essential for their overall growth as communicators and writers. 

‘You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.’ This quote by Maya Angelou reminds us that encouraging children to express their creativity through writing enhances their sentence-writing skills and nurtures their imagination and self-expression.

So, to assist children in their journey of learning ‘how to write sentences effectively’, here are some helpful tips:

1. Start with the Basics

Before diving into complex sentence structures, it’s crucial to introduce children to the basic components of a sentence. A sentence typically consists of subject and predicate.

2. Teach Parts of Speech

Children may need to understand the various parts of speech to construct meaningful and grammatically correct sentences. Engage children in activities that involve identifying and using various parts of speech in sentences. For instance, you can provide sentences and ask them to identify nouns, verbs, adjectives, or other parts of speech. 

You can also encourage them to create their sentences using specific parts of speech, allowing them to practice and reinforce their understanding.

Here are some parts of speech worksheets to get started:

3. Expand Vocabulary

Girl in Yellow Dress Reading The Alphabets On Wall

Building a rich vocabulary is essential for crafting compelling sentences. Research by Biemiller shows that a robust vocabulary enables individuals to express themselves more effectively and enhances their reading comprehension and overall language development. 

Here are some strategies to help children expand their vocabulary:

  • Encourage diverse book reading among your students to discover new words and concepts.
  • Teach them to infer word meanings from surrounding text.
  • Introduce age-appropriate dictionaries to learn definitions and related words.
  • Engage them in puzzles and games for interactive vocabulary building.
  • Present a new word daily and encourage its usage in sentences.
  • Ask them to maintain a journal to record new words, meanings, and examples.
  • Discuss interesting words from daily experiences.
Related Reading: How to Improve Kids' Vocabulary: 11 Best Tips

4. Practice, Practice, and Practice!

Practice indeed makes a person perfect; mastering sentence construction requires consistent and dedicated practice. Here are some enhanced strategies to emphasize the importance of practice:

  • Provide Sentence-building Exercises

You can engage students in exercises that require children to identify and combine subject and predicate components. For example, give them a list of subjects and a list of predicates, and ask them to match and create complete sentences.

  • Create Sentence Puzzles 

When it comes to practicing sentence construction, repetition is key. By creating sentence puzzles, you can provide students with an enjoyable and interactive way to reinforce their skills. Jumble up words and challenge them to rearrange them to form grammatically correct sentences. 

  • Use Sentence-building Games  

Games like ‘Sentence Relay’ or ‘Sentence Scramble’ can be used to make learning fun. These games not only provide opportunities to apply knowledge dynamically but also add to greater writing fluency. 

You can begin with these fun sentence arranging games

  • Provide Sentence Prompts  

Sentence starters stimulate creativity and encourage kids to use different parts of speech.  For example, ‘The ____________ is ____________,’ or ‘I felt ____________ when ____________.’ This activity nurtures creativity and helps kids to express themselves effectively. 

If you are looking for worksheets where your child is prompted to fill in the sentences, here are some options:

Related Reading: Amazing Writing Prompt For Kids To Improve Confidence

How to Improve Sentence Creation Fluency in Kids

Tutor helping kids in writing using different picture books

Now that we have a basic understanding of teaching sentence structure to kids, let’s explore effective methods to improve sentence writing fluency. Here are two specific approaches that can be helpful:

1. Using Sight Word Sentences

Sight word sentences are sentences that primarily consist of high-frequency words that are commonly recognized by sight without requiring extensive decoding or phonetic analysis.  These sentences are designed to help early readers develop fluency and automaticity in reading.

Here are a few examples of sight word sentences:

  • I am happy.
  • We went to the mall.
  • The dog is black.
  • My brother is tall.
  • Look at the beautiful sunset.
  • Can you find your shoes?
  • The car is red.
  • I love to swim.
  • He is playing soccer.
  • The book is on the shelf.

Sight words: I, am, the, is, we, to, my, you, can, find, your, on.

These are common words that often appear frequently in written texts and are taught as early foundational words for reading and writing.

Related Reading: Sight Words for First Graders That Kids Can Easily Learn

2. Using Dictation Sentences

Research has shown that our memory is significantly enhanced when we engage both our auditory and visual senses. One effective method to achieve this is through the use of dictation sentences.

Dictation sentences are sentences spoken or read aloud for the purpose of transcription or writing. In dictation exercises, a person listens to the sentences being dictated and writes them down exactly as they are heard. 

This activity not only improves the listening skills of the students but strengthens their writing skills. Dictation sentences can also be used as a language learning tool or as a method of testing a person’s ability to transcribe spoken words accurately.

Related Reading: Best Positive Affirmations for Kids to Improve Confidence & Belief

Let’s Make Sentence Teaching Fun!

How do I tell what I think until I see what I say?’ says E.M. Forster.

Elaborating on this, Richard Swedberg emphasizes that “in the very act of speaking you get to know what you think.” Moreover, he believes that this thoughtless entry into speech is common among writers who start without knowing what the end result would be and this is where it gets creative. Such is the importance of speech which has the power to interfere and even alter thought processes.

The key to this language mastery lies in the power of effective sentence structure lessons. By teaching it effectively, we equip young learners with the tools to express themselves clearly and confidently. We nurture their creativity and communication skills with engaging activities and interactive technology. So, let’s build a foundation for success, one sentence at a time!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you explain a sentence to kids in simple words?

A sentence is a group of words that expresses a complete thought. Just like we put different things together to make a sandwich, in the same manner, we combine different words together to form a sentence.

How can I teach sentence structure to children with learning difficulties?

Teaching sentence structure to children with learning difficulties requires patience and an approach tailored to their specific needs. You can use external teaching elements like visual aids (charts and graphs) and multisensory techniques (gestures) to make learning more engaging and accessible to them.

How can you evaluate your children's understanding of sentence structure?

There are various assessment methods that you can use to check your children’s understanding of sentence structure. You can provide them with simple exercises for sentence completion, word rearrangement, quizzes, etc. You can use more complex sentences for older kids and keep them simple for the younger ones.

Amy Gill
Amy Gill is a Contributing Editor at SplashLearn. As a former teacher, she likes to write about education reforms, edtech and how to make learning more fun for children.