Click play below to hear about incorporating sentence level work in your classroom:
We’ve spent the last three weeks discussing why sentences are important to a student’s reading and writing skills and activities to implement. So, even if you’re ready to focus on sentences more, where are you finding the time? I’ve got the answer for you! I’m sharing 7 ways that you can incorporate more sentence level work into your instructional day without changing up your schedule.
The key is being aware of opportunities where your students are already writing, and it doesn’t always have to be during your literacy block. Even when you’re teaching other content areas, there are small and simple ways for students to write using various strategies and structures. I also share one of my favorite strategies that can be completed individually or with partners and a sentence writing routine that makes incorporating more sentence level work into your day seamless.
You know that working on sentences, especially at a foundational level, is beneficial, but it’s all about being intentional about structuring those opportunities. The 7 ways I shared are simple with little to no prep and are effective ways for your students to practice sentence skills. So incorporating sentence level work into your instructional day will ultimately help strengthen their sentence writing skills.
In this episode on incorporating sentence level work, I share:
- 7 ways to intentionally create more opportunities for sentence writing
- How to use a 3-2-1 strategy that prompts students to write
- A simple way students can self-correct their own writing
- Activities that help students work on sentence structure
- Why students can practice sentence writing skills in other subject areas as well
- Sentence Writing Routine Resource: Free Sample
- Sentence Writing Routine Resource: TPT Store
- Sign up for my Private Podcast: Confident Writer Systems Series
- Check out the Stellar Literacy Collective Membership
- Free Literacy Block Workshop
- If you’re enjoying this podcast, please leave a review on Apple Podcasts!
Related episodes and blog posts:
- Episode 163, Sentence Deconstruction: What It Is, How It Helps, and Steps to Take To Fit It Into Your Day
- Episode 162, Simple Strategies to Help Your Students Expand Their Sentences
- Episode 161, 5 Reasons Why You Need to Spend More Time on Sentence Writing in Upper Elementary
- Episode 104, 4 Response Frames That You Can Use When Assigning a Written Response
- Episode 59, Simplifying the Struggle of Fitting Everything Into Your Literacy Block
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More About Stellar Teacher Podcast:
Welcome to the Stellar Teacher Podcast! We believe teaching literacy is a skill. It takes a lot of time, practice, and effort to be good at it. This podcast will show you how to level up your literacy instruction and make a massive impact with your students, all while having a little fun!
Your host, Sara Marye, is a literacy specialist passionate about helping elementary teachers around the world pass on their love of reading to their students. She has over a decade of experience working as a classroom teacher and school administrator. Sara has made it her mission to create high-quality no-fluff resources and lesson ideas that are both meaningful and engaging for young readers.
Each week, Sara and her guests will share their knowledge, tips, and tricks so that you can feel confident in your ability to transform your students into life-long readers.
Hey, there and welcome back to another episode. Today we are finishing up our four part series, where we have been talking all about sentences.
Over the past three weeks, I have shared a lot about sentences starting all the way back in episode number 161. I broke down and explain really five reasons why we need to focus on sentence level writing and upper elementary. Then in episode number 162, I gave you three really simple strategies you can use to help your students expand their sentences and add more details.
And then in last week’s episode, I talked all about sentence deconstruction. And we discussed what it is and why it’s important. So if you happen to miss any of those episodes, they are still available to you to listen to them. Definitely go back and catch them.
And my goal, of course, with all of these episodes is that as you’ve been listening to each of these episodes, you are realizing that sentences, and having knowledge of sentence structure is incredibly important to students reading and writing success in upper elementary. And hopefully what you realize is that in order for your students to actually experience the benefits of focusing on sentence level work, you actually have to take some action, and you have to put these things into practice.
And I totally understand that sometimes as a teacher, it’s like, okay, where do I actually find time to do this? Like your plate is already full and you’re wondering how am I going to make this work?
Now, the good news is, is that your instructional day is already filled with so many opportunities for you to intentionally build up your students sentence writing skills, because that’s really what it comes down to. You know, you don’t necessarily need to add in a new sentence writing block, or sacrifice time from other parts of your day, you just really need to be aware of opportunities where your students are already writing, and then really intentionally structure those opportunities to help your students strengthen their sentence writing skills.
So today, I’m going to share with you seven opportunities or really seven ways that you can intentionally incorporate more sentence level work in your upper elementary classroom.
So the first one is to incorporate a sentence writing routine as part of a warm up for your literacy block. And this first suggestion shouldn’t come as a surprise to you, because I’ve mentioned this idea before on the podcast. But it really is an easy way for you to put your sentence level writing on autopilot.
And then you never really have to worry about whether you’re spending enough time to focus on sentence level work or not. And you don’t have to worry about if you’re doing the right types of tasks because it’s already built into the routine.
You know, we know that teachers and students really thrive off of routine. So an easy way for you to get more sentence writing done is to simply turn it into a routine.
Now you can kick off your writing block each day with maybe five to seven minutes of intentional sentence writing work. And if you’re not really sure what that routine could look like, you can grab a free sample of the routine that we’ve created by going to stellarteacher.com/sentences. And so many teachers have been using this routine since we released it last year, and have noticed a huge improvement in their students writing.
So each day of the week, students are going to focus on a different sentence level writing task that will help them develop sentence writing skills and really increase their knowledge of syntax and sentence structure. And you ultimately could use a variety of sentence writing tasks throughout the week. But if you choose to follow our routine, then your week might look something like this.
On Monday, students are going to expand a sentence with the five w questions. On Tuesday, students are going to use a picture as inspiration to write the four sentence types. On Wednesday, students are going to identify a fragment out of three different sentences and then they’re going to fix the fragment so it’s a correct sentence.
On Thursday, they’re going to combine two sentences into either a compound sentence, complex sentence or, a simple sentence with a compound subject or predicate. And then on Friday, they’re going to unscramble a sentence so that way the words are written in correct order.
And in this routine, each sentence writing task is quick, and it’s easy. And like I said, it really does make a difference in students overall writing. So incorporate a sentence writing routine, super easy way to make sure you’re getting enough sentence writing time in your classroom.
Another really easy way to intentionally focus more on sentence writing is to simply make it part of your morning routine. And the reason why this is such a good option is because of the routine factor. If your students complete something every day, then they’re going to get approximately 180 practice opportunities during the year.
And when I was a fourth grade teacher, we always had some sort of morning work for our students to complete. So as they would trickle in, they would have a set of assignments, it’s something that they could complete on their own. They didn’t require a lot of, you know, teaching or prep work or directions. And it was oftentimes a lot of review.
And honestly, when I think back on some of the tasks that we had our students do, they weren’t always that high quality or impactful, but yet we had them do these things every day. So if your students have some sort of worksheet packet, or if you give them a specific assignment that they complete each morning, consider revamping that so it includes something that focuses on sentence writing.
Because we know that if we intentionally focus on the right type of sentence writing skills, then that really is going to have an impact on our students reading and writing growth. So a few ideas of what this could look like is you could use the sentence writing routine that I just mentioned during your morning work instead of using it as a warm up to your writing block.
But other ideas include, you could give your students a scrambled sentence on the board that is related to something that they’re going to learn about during the day and have them unscramble it. You could write a sentence on the board as part of your morning message and have students deconstruct the sentence.
Or if you don’t want to have to write out a message every day, and you do give students a morning work packet that includes some sort of texts, then simply underline a sentence in that text. And ask your students to deconstruct it, you know, ask them to identify the subject and the predicate or ask them to rewrite the sentence using a different type of sentence structure.
So there’s a variety of things that you could have them do if they’re deconstructing a sentence. You could also as part of your morning work, ask students a question and then give them a prompt with a specific type of sentence you want them to use when they reply.
So you could ask them, What is one good thing that happened to you over the weekend? Write a complex sentence to respond. What are two things you’re looking forward to most about the upcoming week? Write a compound sentence to respond.
You know, sometimes students just need to be reminded to write something other than a simple sentence, because I think that’s the default that they go to. And that’s what they feel most comfortable with. So we want to give them opportunities to practice something else.
You can even as part of your morning work, do something as simple as write a sentence starter on the board and ask your students to complete it. Today I’m looking forward to and then have your students use that sentence starter to write a complete sentence.
And sentence starters and sentence stems are actually really great because they set students up to write an accurate sentence. And depending on the sentence starter you use, you are also modeling how to write a variety of sentences, including complex sentences, which are often hard for students to write.
Okay, my third idea for you is to really leverage the exit tickets from other subject areas. Now, I think it’s important for us to recognize that students are writing all of the time and in all subjects. And when we realize this, we understand that we really do have plenty of opportunities to work on students sentence writing skills outside of our reading block.
So a really easy way that you can do that is when you give an exit ticket during another subject like science, social studies, or even math. And this could be an open ended question that you ask where you ask them a question, and then they need to respond.
Or you could do something like a three to one. And a three to one is just a framework that you could use as a closure for your lesson. And students are going to reflect and they’re going to tell you three things. They learned two vocabulary words that are important. And one question they still have, and you can adjust those things. You know, it could be three words that are important, a statement about the topic, you know, one question you have whatever it is, you can switch up the order of those, it doesn’t have to be those specific things.
But a three to one framework like this is really filled with a lot of opportunities for students to work on sentence writing. First of all students are prompted, you know, if it’s like two vocabulary words, they’re going to have to look at the two words if it’s one question they’re having to write one question three things they learned, usually they’re going to write three statements.
So in general, the three two one has an opportunity for students to practice writing at the sentence level. But in addition, it’s really just a good opportunity to focus on basic things like punctuation, capitalization, subject verb agreement. Those things are sometimes easier for students to be aware of when they’re only writing a sentence as opposed to writing a paragraph or an essay.
But also with a three two one, it’s a chance for you to bring in some other sentence writing skills like discussing and reviewing the four sentence types, you know, especially with the three two one structure, it’s an opportunity to discuss the difference between statements, commands, questions, exclamations, and you could even challenge students to try to write all four sentence types in their three to one.
So an exit ticket, or really any open ended response is a good opportunity to review some key sentence writing skills and to give students practice at the sentence level.
And then similarly to an exit ticket, my fourth suggestion is to really utilize any form of written response as an opportunity to work on sentence writing skills. And when students are reading in upper elementary, we often give them reading response questions to complete as a follow up to their reading assignment. So whether it was a read aloud, or you know, independent practice or something from small group, we often want them to respond to their reading.
And a reading response can be a great way to provide accountability, it can also be used to gauge their understanding of the text. But it’s also a really great opportunity to get some focused sentence writing in. And one way that you can really leverage your students reading response from a sentence writing perspective, is to give students a response frame for their written response.
And if you’re not familiar with what a response frame is, then I would encourage you to go back and listen to episode number 104 of the Stellar Teacher Podcast. I did an episode all about response frames, it’ll give you some really specific examples of response frames that you can incorporate into your reading response rotation.
But a really easy one that we also love to use in some of our small group resources is to prompt students to finish the fragment using details from the text. So oftentimes, we give students a question and we say, answer this question using details from the text. But instead of giving them a question, we’re gonna give them a fragment, so an incomplete sentence.
And then they need to figure out what details from the text they could use to transform that fragment into a complete sentence. And this reading response prompt is really great for a few reasons. I think one, it’s an interesting way to assess comprehension, you know, students really need to think critically about the fragment, and what ideas from the text could be connected to it.
So for example, you might give the students the fragment, are endangered, because. And so with this prompt, students would have to identify which species from the text are endangered. And then they would have to figure out the reasons why they are endangered before they can finish the fragment. So they have to sort of, especially with this fragment, they have to look for two parts from the text in order to complete the fragment.
So it kind of requires a little more critical thinking than just a normal comprehension question. You know, a normal comprehension question might be, you know, why is this species endangered, or what are some endangered species? But when we give them a fragment, it sort of forces them to do a little bit more critical thinking in order to get the sentence correct, both from a comprehension standpoint, but then also from a writing standpoint.
So in addition to checking comprehension, a fragment, as a response also gives your students an opportunity to reinforce their knowledge of syntax, and really how to form a complete sentence. And I’m sure you are well aware that fragments can be very common in upper elementary, and it’s something that we want our students to be aware of, and to avoid writing.
And in order to do that, we have to make sure our students know how to identify a fragment, and then also how to fix one as well. So giving students opportunities with a response prompt like this can be very helpful from a writing standpoint. So reading response can be a great opportunity to reinforce the sentence writing skills as well.
My next idea is connected to the two that I just shared. And this one is not so much an opportunity for students to practice writing, but it’s really more so an opportunity for you to give students feedback on their writing, which is just as important. And so that’s really to just maximize any time your students are sharing a written response by giving them feedback.
And I think it’s important to remember that, you know, while we want to make sure that our students are getting plenty of time to practice writing sentences, and they get practice, you know, expanding sentences and combining sentences and unscrambling sentences, but we also want to make sure that we are giving them feedback on their writing and sometimes that can be hard to do.
We don’t have time to grade, every single thing that they write or to assess everything they write and give them feedback. So we want to look for opportunities where we can do a little bit more of that. And feedback is really just a little mini teachable moment, that is an opportunity for you to provide reinforcement to the entire class, even if you’re just looking at one student’s writing.
So a super simple way to do that is, anytime a student is sharing a written response with the whole class, give them feedback on their content and their writing. And I know when I was in the classroom, you know, we would maybe have students jot down something on a note card or jot down something on a sticky note. Or if they answered a question, you know, we would let some students either share, I did turn and talk a lot.
So I would have my students share a lot with a classmate, but then I would often have students share out with the whole class. So a handful of students are going to share their response with a class. And one of the things I noticed is that when students would write a response, they would verbally share something different. So they wrote something down. But when I asked them to share their response, they said something completely different.
And when I asked students to actually read what they wrote, they started to become aware that oftentimes, their writing didn’t sound the way that they wanted it to. And if they were just going to give a verbal response, it would be different than what they would actually write down.
And so I would actually have my students read their writing, or if they felt uncomfortable reading it, we would either have a partner read it, or I would read it. And when we would read their writing, you know, we could confirm is that what you wanted to say? Is that the idea you wanted to communicate?
And it helped them to build awareness that, you know, when they’re writing, we want to go back and reread it and make sure that it sounds the way that we want it to. And so it’s a good opportunity for students to share their writing, they’re getting an opportunity to share their content, but then we can also take a look at their actual writing.
So, you know, we can look at their sentences and give them feedback on something they did well, so even if it is just starting with a capital letter, and ending with a period, we can celebrate that we can highlight any specific phrases they included, we can identify the type of sentence that they wrote. We could even give them suggestions on how to improve it.
But of course, if they’re missing something, if they wrote a fragment or a run on, or something was off with their actual writing, we could give them feedback and then help them revise it. So their written response sounded the way that they wanted to say it.
And this doesn’t need to take long, but the more often, we give feedback to our students on their writing, and we make the entire class aware of it, they’re going to become so much more likely to actually think about the sentences they are writing, especially outside their writing block.
I always found that sometimes my students would treat writing during writing time a little bit differently than they would treat writing during math or science or social studies. And ultimately, we want students to be thinking about these sentence writing skills anytime that they are writing.
Okay, so for the sixth idea, I’ve mentioned this one a few times in the previous three episodes, but it is so easy, and it is filled with so many opportunities that it is worth repeating. And your read aloud is really jam packed with opportunities to focus on sentence level work. And a couple of things that you could do.
First of all, before you begin reading, to build background knowledge, you could show your students a picture related to the text and have them write a sentence about the image. Or you could have them read a question or an exclamation a specific type of sentence so that way, they’re prompt to, you know, write something specific.
You could also identify a sentence in your read aloud text and deconstruct it with your students. You can have your students use the five W’s questions that I mentioned in Episode 162, to identify the who the what the when the where the why, and then use those details to build and expand a sentence to summarize what it is that you read.
You could give students a sentence starter with a dependent clause and tell them to add an independent clause to complete the sentence and respond to their story. So you could give them a starter like since Mya didn’t return to school the next day, and then they need to complete it with details from the text.
So there are so many different opportunities to connect sentence level writing to your read aloud, I think sometimes we just forget that, even though we are reading, it’s also a good opportunity to focus on sentences and talking about that and giving students opportunities to respond in sentence level assignments as well.
And you don’t need to do all of the things that I just listed every time you read aloud. But I do think it’s a good idea to really be intentional about bringing in some sort of sentence level work during any read aloud experience.
And then my final idea is super easy, and that is to do a daily sentence level reflection. Now, this doesn’t need to take a ton of time and it doesn’t need to be super complex, but it can be a good idea to end your day with a daily reflection that requires students to get to practice with some sentence level work that you’ve been working on.
And I think this is important because in general, we often don’t take the time we need to close out and reflect on our lessons or on our instructional day. And sometimes we just leave things open. We’ll talk about this again tomorrow, we’ll wrap it up tomorrow or just time to go, the bus is here, have a good day, you know, things like that.
So we want to be intentional about closing out the day and providing some closure to the learning experiences that our students had. And so spending just five to seven minutes reflecting on your day, and having your students write a sentence, or two to reflect on their learning can be just a great way to end the day on a high note.
And it doesn’t need to be fancy. And it doesn’t need to require a ton of prep. You could give students some sentence starters and ask them to finish the sentence. So even things like today, I learned.. my favorite part of today was.. I worked really hard on.
Or you could ask students to use the four sentence types to write four sentences about their day. So share an exclamation to celebrate a win a command to share something that they learned a question with something that they are still wondering about and a statement to set their intentions for tomorrow.
Or you can even make this a collaborative thing and have students write down two sentences that share two things they learned or two things they did, then they have to find a friend and their friend has to combine the two sentences into one.
So as you can see, from all of these ideas, the that intentional sentence level work can find its way into pretty much any part of your instructional day and it often doesn’t require a ton of extra prep or work, we just have to be intentional about it.
So just to review, seven ways that you can be more intentional about focusing on sentence level work in your classroom. First, incorporate a sentence readying your team as a warm up for your writing block. Second idea is to incorporate sentence level work into your morning work routine. The third is to leverage your exit tickets and other subjects to focus on sentence writing.
The fourth is to utilize your reading response assignments to support sentence writing, especially with the use of sentence frames. Five is to give students an opportunity to really share and improve their writing when they are responding or sharing with a class. Six is to incorporate both sentence writing and sentence deconstruction into your read aloud. And then the last one is to use a sentence level daily writing reflection to close out your day.
So I hope that you have found this entire sentence series helpful and are feeling just really excited about giving sentences a little more attention this year.
Now, before we go, let me ask just a real quick favor before we close out this episode. If you have enjoyed listening to this podcast series, and you found it helpful, or if you know of a teacher friend who would benefit from it, would you please share it with a teacher friend? Send the link to your teammates, text it to your teacher bestie or even share about it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at @thestellarteachercompany.
We really do want this podcast to help as many teachers as possible and word of mouth podcast recommendations is one of the best ways that you can help us spread the word. So thank you in advance for sharing it with a friend. And of course, I hope you’ll tune in next Monday. So until then, have a stellar week.