Combining sentences is one of the basic skills of the English language. However, once elementary writers can read and comprehend more complex syntax, teachers often move on to different writing skills. With some extra practice and classroom focus, students can reinforce sentence combining skills before mastering higher level skills. Keep reading for opportunities to teach sentence combining in both elementary and secondary classrooms.
If you’ve ever read a stack of essays that are full of simple sentences, you may be ready to teach students to combine their sentences. Engage your students when teaching sentence combining with these activities.
A primary teaching of combining sentences should begin with reading and instruction instead of isolated examples on a board. You may, for instance, start out by asking students how they know to end one sentence and begin another. There will be a variety of correct answers to the question, which you can write on the chalkboard.
Next, take an example from a recent short story covered in class, and have the students notice the choices that the author made when ending sentences and beginning new ones. Explain to your students that, although the author made some excellent choices, there are plenty of other options.
- Use the text to combine sentences and break them apart.
- Use different techniques such as breaking two sentences into three, or combining the tail end of a sentence with the sentence following.
This project will demonstrate not only the choices of the author, but the skills of the pupils themselves to make reasonable sentence combination decisions.
When teaching editing and peer-editing, it’s important to demonstrate what type of editing you’re expecting. A great teaching strategy for sentence combination is to introduce an unfamiliar piece of text that is poorly written, and allow them to combine the sentences together for a more coherent whole.
Once the students have the basic understanding of how and why sentences are combined in various configurations, you can use their reading to demonstrate examples of bad sentences.
- Take a paragraph of text from a short story recently covered and re-write it so that the sentences are short, choppy, and entirely without transition.
- Alternatively, you can write a paragraph of your own. Have them edit the paragraph as a class, and then write their own "bad prose" for a friend to combine sentences as homework.
At this point, you can begin explaining the fundamental elements of a sentence to students. Beforehand, they may not have understood the grammatical backbone on which your lessons are built. But now they will be prepared to hear why sentences function the way they do.
Focus on grammar and concrete images and build from this. A main part of this unit will be:
- Explaining the difference between subordinating and coordinating conjunctions.
- Reinforcing how punctuation can make these decisions stronger.
While these elements of grammar are sure to be lost on some students, make them extremely simple at first, focusing on the seven coordinating conjunctions and then moving onto the possibilities allowed by the subordinating.
As always, these lessons will become boring and dry without a variety of activities to keep students interested. Grammar games are fun and engaging ways to teach students as effectively as lengthy grammar lessons.
- Get them into the lesson, allowing them to act out the parts of sentences and having one or two students at a time play conjunctions.
- Puzzles, timed activities, and word searches are valuable tools.
In this age of technology, there is no reason to forego the more colorful and entertaining possibilities of the internet for the more banal workbook activities to which the students are probably accustomed. Combine video (Conjunction Junction is still fun!), audio, written, and oral exercises for the best possible results.
Teaching students to combine sentences helps them communicate more clearly and effectively. It can lead them to more sophisticated sentence styles, such as compound or complex sentences, and to vary their writing style for different types of writing. Practice writing variety with these sentence-combining worksheets.