Writing a detailed sentence can be challenging for students that are learning English as a second or additional language. Beginning writers benefit from explicit instruction in writing sentences as well. Here are some strategies to help students improve their writing at the sentence level.
Use question words to help students practice writing sentences. Choose a topic and then have students answer questions. Next model how to take the information and put it together into a detailed sentence.
Question Words with Pictures
Show students a picture and then ask them questions such as who, what, where, when. After they fill in this information students create a sentence. You can read more information about using question words to expand sentences in The Writing Revolution.
Sentence Patterning Chart
A sentence patterning chart follows a similar idea to question words. It helps to explicitly teach sentence structure and parts of speech. The chart can be simple or complex depending on how many columns you use. You can provide students will the vocabulary or work with them to fill out the chart before using it to create sentences.
First, choose a topic. You can prefill out the chart or work with students to fill out a chart with parts of speech such as articles, adjectives, nouns, verbs, adverbs, or prepositional phrases. Then model for students how to go across the chart and create a sentence. Practice creating sentences orally first and then move on to writing. Watch a detailed explanation of sentence patterning charts by Katie Toppel.
A mentor sentence shows students an example of a well written sentence that models how to use a grammar concept in context. It is often taken from a longer paragraph or story. Try and find a sentence that students will connect with.
First, give students time to point out what they notice about the sentence. You can guide them by asking the question What do ______ do when we read? Summarize the main idea of the sentence. Then give them a sentence frame so that students can create their own version of the sentence.
You can read more information about using mentor sentences in Patterns of Power.