Click play below to hear how sentence deconstruction improves reading skills:
Sometimes, in order to understand something, you have to break it down to its core. The same is true when reading texts. In order to understand the meaning of a sentence, you need to practice sentence deconstruction. But what is this, and how does it help your students? In the third episode of this four-part series, I’m sharing how sentence deconstruction improves student literacy skills, how to fit it into your schedule, and more!
This series focuses on how understanding sentences helps improve literacy skills and overall reading comprehension. When students break down sentences, that’s exactly what they’re doing. The goal of sentence deconstruction is to know and understand the meaning of a sentence at its core, while my goal of the episode is to answer four overarching questions that help you better understand it and where to practice it during your instructional day.
Although working on sentence foundational skills might seem unnecessary in upper elementary, it’s really essential for understanding what students are reading. Therefore, working on sentence structure and skills, especially sentence deconstruction, significantly improves and impacts a student’s literacy skills. Join me next week for the final episode in our sentence series!
In this episode on sentence deconstruction, I share:
- The 4 sentence deconstruction questions I’m answering in the episode
- How syntax plays an important role in understanding sentences and being a skilled reader
- The 2 items students need to identify when breaking down sentences
- Various ways to incorporate sentence deconstruction during your instructional day
- 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 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 139, Practice Sentence Deconstruction [Small Steps to S.O.R. Part 2]
- Master the Art of Sentence Deconstruction: Unleash Your Student’s Reading Power
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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 of the Stellar Teacher Podcast. I’m your host, Sara Marye, and today we are going to continue our conversation all about sentences.
We are currently in a four part series where I am talking all about the importance and really the impact of sentence writing in upper elementary. But if you are just joining us for the first time in this series, then I would encourage you to go back to episode number 161, where I share five reasons why it is so important to focus on sentence writing in upper elementary.
And then in last week’s episode number 162, I shared three strategies that you can use to help your students expand their sentences. So go back catch up on those episodes.
And then today, we are going to talk all about sentence deconstruction. And I know this topic of sentence deconstruction might be a little unfamiliar to you. So my goal with this podcast episode is really to answer four questions. What is sentence deconstruction? How does it help my students? What actionable steps can I take to focus on sentence deconstruction? And where does sentence deconstruction fit into my instructional day?
So let’s kick things off by really making sure we understand what sentence deconstruction is all about. So what is sentence deconstruction? Sentence deconstruction is really the opposite of sentence construction. When students are constructing or writing a syntax, they are using their knowledge of syntax, which has to do with sentence structure and the order in which we put words in a sentence. And they use that knowledge to combine words and phrases and clauses into a sentence.
So sentence deconstruction is basically the opposite of that. Rather than putting words and phrases together, we want to take them apart so we can really understand what the meaning of the sentence is. Sentence deconstruction is simply the process of breaking down a sentence into the individual components so that we can fully comprehend the sentence.
When you are deconstructing a sentence with your students, you really want your students to be able to identify some core elements in a sentence. And the two things that you really want them to understand are first the subject, you know who or what the sentence is about. And then the predicate, what is happening, or what is the action in the sentence?
Now, that’s at the very basic level. Not all sentences, though, are simply going to be just a subject and a predicate. So in addition to deconstructing our sentences down to this basic level, we also want students to be able to identify if there are any important words or phrases or additional clauses that significantly impact the meaning of the sentence.
For example, if a student is reading a compound sentence, then it’s really important that they are able to identify the conjunction in that sentence, and understand how it’s connecting the two ideas in that sentence, and really understanding what is the relationship between those two ideas, you know, the conjunction and is going to connect ideas in a very different way than the conjunction but, and we want to make sure our students have a strong understanding of that.
If students are reading a sentence with an appositive, it’s important that they can identify the noun phrase that is the appositive and that they also can identify the main noun that it is giving more detail about.
If students are reading a complex sentence, then it’s important that they’re able to identify the dependent clause as well as the independent clause, and again that they can understand the relationship.
And then if students read a sentence that has a lot of descriptive details, you know, there’s a bunch of adjectives and adverbs that stick units are able to identify which words or phrases are necessary for the core comprehension of the sentence. And then which words or phrases are just giving us extra information but that we could possibly remove and not significantly alter the meaning.
So sentence deconstruction is when we focus on a single sentence in the texts we are reading, and we break down that sentence into its core elements. So maybe you’re like, Okay, that sounds cool. But why is this important? How does sentence deconstruction help my students?
Well, sentence deconstruction really is the foundation for understanding what we are reading. Syntax, which again, has to do with understanding sentence structure and it’s really the rules that tell us the order in which we put need to combine words. That is a key element in the language comprehension strand of Scarborough’s reading rope, which we know is a visual model that really helps us understand how to teach reading.
And the reason why syntax is necessary if we want our students to be skilled readers, is because comprehension begins at the sentence level. Which means that students really need to have the tools and knowledge to break down a variety of sentences in order to unlock the core meaning that is being communicated.
When we teach and give students an opportunity to practice sentence deconstruction, then their comprehension is going to improve. It’s like we’re giving them a toolkit for decoding and sentences and paragraphs.
But in addition to helping students become stronger readers, sentence deconstruction also helps students improve their writing. When a student can easily put a sentence together, and then take a sentence apart, it is an indicator that they really understand syntax and the rules of sentence structure.
You know, so often, our students learn the literacy content, we teach just enough to successfully complete a worksheet, take a quiz or pass a test. But I know that we are really interested in long lasting mastery. And we really want our students to have strong literacy skills that they can apply long after we teach our lesson.
And it’s important then that we know sort of what to focus on and also what to look for as signs of mastery. And successfully being able to deconstruct a sentence is a really great sign that your students really understand sentence structure and syntax.
So how do we go about focusing on sentence deconstruction in our classrooms? Maybe you’re wondering, okay, I’m understanding why this is important. What are some actionable steps that I can take to focus on sentence deconstruction?
So you don’t necessarily need to teach sentence deconstruction in a formal lesson. And you definitely don’t want to just do one single like practice session of sentence deconstruction, but rather, this is a process that you want your students to regularly engage in throughout the year, you and your students are going to get the most benefit if you regularly incorporate sentence deconstruction activities into your classroom all year long.
And again, remember sentence deconstruction is simply the act of taking a sentence and breaking it apart. And there really are a variety of ways that you can do that.
I think one of the easiest and most natural ways to incorporate sentence deconstruction into your classroom is to make it a part of your read aloud discussion. It’s a really easy thing to do when you are reading aloud.
And all you have to do is as you’re reading, pick a sentence from the text, you know, pick out one whether it has a really interesting vocabulary word is really important to the main idea of the text, but pick out a sentence and you can either write it on the board or a piece of chart paper, and then spend a few minutes with your students deconstructing the sentence.
And there’s a variety of things that you could focus on, you might want to focus on one deconstruction element, or you might want to incorporate a couple of them. But things that you could do when you are deconstructing sentences are have students identify the structure of the sentence. So have them figure out is it a simple sentence? Is it a complex sentence? Is it a compound sentence? Is it a compound complex sentence?
Have them identify the subject, which is a noun phrase? Have them identify the predicate, which is the verb phrase? And then see if they can identify any additional phrases that might be included in the sentence. Maybe there’s a prepositional phrase, maybe there’s an appositive, maybe there are additional adverb or adjective phrases, or maybe it has a dependent clause that they notice.
You could also have students identify words that could possibly be eliminated from the sentence that would not impact the overall meaning of the sentence. So if there are a lot of adjectives or adverbs, have students identify them and then remove them from the sentence and see if the sentence can still maintain its meaning when you eliminate certain words.
So those are a variety of things that you could do with your students. And ultimately, the goal with all of these sentence deconstruction tasks, is that we want our students to be able to read a complex sentence and we want them to be able to pull out the meaning. We don’t want them to get distracted or confused by all of the phrases or the clauses or the detailed words, we want them to be able to understand the meaning that is at the heart of the sentences they are reading.
So doing sentence deconstruction during a read aloud is super simple. But it’s also something that you could do with your students when you’re doing a small group lesson or if your students are reading independently. Really, students can practice sentence deconstruction anytime that they are reading a text.
So there are other ways that you could practice sentence deconstruction some other ideas are to incorporate peer writing sessions, where students would either exchange a sentence that they wrote as part of a paragraph or an essay, or if you’re simply practicing sentence writing, if you’re using our sentence writing routine, this is something that you could have them do.
But they would exchange sentences with a classmate, and then their classmate would destruct the sentence that they weren’t given. Maybe they would break it apart, they would identify the elements. And you could also turn this into a form of peer feedback.
So your students could, you know, maybe they noticed that the sentence doesn’t have a predicate. So that would be some feedback they give, maybe they noticed the sentence had way too many extra words in it a lot of descriptive words, and it was it was too many and clouding the meaning. And so maybe they would give feedback on eliminating some of those, maybe it didn’t have enough detail. So sentence deconstruction can also lead into students giving feedback on their writing.
Another thing that you could have students do is just a simple partner practice with sentence deconstruction. You could give students a complex sentence, you could have all of the words written out on note cards, and then students would put the sentence in order. And then each partner is going to take turns eliminating a word, or a phrase from the sentence until the only thing that is left is the simple subject and the simple predicate.
And this again, really helps students understand how we put sentences together and how we take them apart. And ultimately, a sentence has to have meaning. And so we have to have a subject and a predicate in order to have a sentence. So that’s another activity that you could do.
So now that we know what sentence deconstruction is, now we understand the benefits of it. And hopefully, you have a few just really simple ideas on how you can focus on it in your classroom.
Let’s talk about where this can fit into your instructional day. And I know that it can be super easy to hear ideas and recognize that they are great. But then you start to wonder how the heck am I going to find time to squeeze this into my day? I already feel like I have a lot on my plate.
Now the good news is like with most things that I share, you can incorporate them into your instructional day in so many different ways. And so obviously, sentence deconstruction can become a part of your literacy block, you can do it when you’re focusing on writing, you can do it when you’re focusing on reading, it really doesn’t take a long time. So it is definitely something that you should be able to find a few minutes to do.
But in addition to that, you could also make it a part of your morning meeting. You could write a sentence on your whiteboard, or smartboard that is part of your morning meeting message or a greeting for your students. And then as your students enter your classroom in the morning, you could have them deconstruct the sentence.
And you wouldn’t even have to have them do a ton of deconstruction every single day. You could give them one prompt a day. So maybe on Monday, they identify the subject Tuesday that identify the predicate. On Wednesday, they identify one word that they could eliminate and the sentence would still maintain its meaning, and so on and so on. So you could easily incorporate sentence deconstruction into your morning meeting.
Like I mentioned, anytime that you’re reading aloud, you can do sentence deconstruction. Anytime students are writing, you can practice sentence deconstruction. But also anytime you’re reading from your science or social studies text, you could also deconstruct a sentence.
And again, this could be great if there is a sentence that is really connected to the meaning of the content you’re teaching, break it down, because the more time you spend breaking down a sentence, students are going to understand that topic so much clearer. And they’re going to get the added benefit of understanding syntax at a better level which is just going to help with their overall reading comprehension in the future.
You could make a sentence deconstruction part of your students homework if you have students reading independently at night and have them pick out a sentence and practice deconstructing it.
And really, anytime you have a few random minutes, I know they don’t happen often but I also know they do pop up whether you’re waiting for a specialist to arrive or recess ended a little bit early or something didn’t go right and you have just some extra minutes with your students do a sentence deconstruction activity. It has such a high return on the amount of time that you spend on it. So the This really is a good activity that you can do when you have just a few minutes and it really is going to benefit your students.
So, hopefully this episode gave you a deeper understanding of what sentence deconstruction is and how it’s going to help your students. And more importantly, I really hope that it inspired you to carve out some time this week to focus on sentence deconstruction.
This whole series on sentences is really a reminder to us as educators, that if we want our students to be successful readers and writers, then we really need to slow down our instruction, and make sure that our students can master the essentials. And sentences are one of those essentials for both reading and writing.
So hopefully, you’re finding this series helpful. Of course, I would love to hear from you. If you have been listening to our sentence series and are getting something out of it, send me a message over on Instagram at @thestellarteachercompany. I always love hearing from you.
And I hope you’ll join me next week for our final episode in our sentence series. I will see you then.