5 Tips to Help Students Write Great Sentences

Writing is something we do all day every day without even realizing it. As adults, we don't give it much thought, but this isn't the case for primary students. Writing is brand new to them. Capital letters, punctuation, subjects, verbs, and more all need to be taught and reinforced. That's where we come in. I always love teaching sentence writing because there's so much growth that takes place throughout the process. Today I'm going to share with you 5 tips to help students write great sentences.

Sentence writing will be a breeze in your first grade classroom with these 5 helpful tips you can start using today.

The Beginning of Writing

Writing is such a huge foundational skill that we get to teach in the classroom. It is something that our kids will master and improve upon for years to come. Before they can write a short story, essay, or research paper they must learn to write a sentence. Sounds pretty easy right? Well, there's more to it than you think. After teaching sentence writing many different ways, I realized that these 5 steps are the key to student success.

5 Steps for Writing Great Sentences

1. Introduce Sentence Writing

What makes up a sentence? That's the first thing I teach my students. The key points we discuss include that a sentence is a complete thought, it must make sense, and it must include a verb and a noun. We also touch on some specifics such as it must start with a capital letter and end with punctuation. Once your kids understand these basics, you'll also want to cover some more advanced topics. These include discussing how sentences include describing words and details to make them interesting!

I love to use anchor charts as a visual representation of this skill.  We spend a lot of time in whole group discussions talking about the makeup of sentences. We discuss how sentences need a noun and a verb, or a naming part and a telling part. 

Introduce great sentence writing with colorful anchor charts and posters like these.

I have my students take turns naming nouns and verbs and we make a list on the board.  Then we use them to make sentences.  As we make a sentence I write it on the board modeling the capital letter and the punctuation. Then we go through our anchor chart like a checklist. While we are doing this I will also throw in examples that are not sentences so that students learn to differentiate between the two.

The sentences begin very simply.  We might say "The dog ran." or "The boy played." It's the perfect way to make sure they really understand each of the sentence requirements.

Next up, I challenge students to write their own sentences using our noun and verb lists.  Students can write on paper, in a journal, or even on a whiteboard.  After they write I ask them to check their sentence as we go through the checklist.  Then I ask a couple of students to share their sentences.  I am also walking around the room and able to do a quick check on all the students as we complete this.

Lots of Sentence Writing Practice

Sentence writing takes tons of practice, and that's just what we do next. I have a stack of cards with verbs on them and another stack of cards with nouns on them. I copy them on different color card stock so it's easy to differentiate between them. I use the cards to have the students orally build sentences by choosing a card from each deck. 

Get in lots of sentence writing practice with printable cards featuring nouns and verbs.

They usually spit out a "boring" sentence, so I prompt them for more information along the way. My students absolutely LOVE this activity. As you can imagine, the sentences sometimes-well most of the time-get silly! That's okay! That's the fun of it all! We usually spend several days practicing making sentences together orally.

After we've got that under our belts, it's time to write. We follow the same practice of pulling nouns and verbs from the decks. This time they write their sentences down instead of saying them orally. We do this together as a group and with partners. I love to add this to centers for extra practice when we move on. The kids beg me to go to this writing center, so they can create silly sentences. 

2. Include Describing Words & Add-in Details

Once the class has a good understanding of simple sentences and the sentence requirements, then I move into discussing how these simple sentences are boring.  When we move to this phase really depends on the class.  Some years we jump in after just a day or two, and other years it comes weeks later.  Use your judgment and don't move on until your students are ready. I promise that in the long run, they will have better sentences if you make sure they have a solid foundation with the basics.

Add describing words to your sentence writing activities to get your students practicing more complex sentences.

To start this phase, I pull out some of the original sentences we wrote.  I get a little dramatic and talk about how boring the sentences are, or how I still have questions related to the sentence.  Then, I explain how we can add more details to spice it up and make it more interesting. To practice this as a class I write some simple sentences on the board and ask the class to give me some details we can add.  We will often rewrite the same sentence multiple times using the suggestions of different students. This is such a great way to show students the power of details and describing words.

Using Describing Words in Sentences  

Describing words, or adjectives, are what takes our boring sentences and turns them into something interesting. At this point in the game, I add in a deck of adjective cards. 

Teaching Tip: This is a great time to introduce adjectives if you have not already done so.

Once again, I run them off on a different color card stock. So we now have three sets: nouns, verbs, and adjectives. The different colors make it super easy for students to be sure they have each type of word in their sentences. We do more oral practice of creating sentences using describing words. 

Help your students write their best sentences with describing words to help them make them more interesting.

They also do small group work and center activities with the cards where they actually write down the sentences they create. We also discuss adding more details to our sentences to make them more interesting. Adding details about when, where, why, or how something happens really bumps your sentence up to the next level. Interactive handouts provide tons of great practice for this. Students will cut and paste words in the correct column and then create sentences using those given words. 

3. Capital Letters and Ending Marks

How does something so simple need so much practice? Beginning and ending marks are something that students forget often when writing sentences. So, it's important to take the time and practice them. After enough practice, capitalizing the first word of the sentence will become a habit. I reinforce this with lots of practice pages. My students complete different activities like finding the error in the sentence (no capital letter), rewriting a sentence correctly, and circling or highlighting the first letter of a sentence. 

There's a little more to teaching ending marks and punctuation. I like to use "Punctuation Pals" to introduce the different types of ending marks including periods, exclamation points, and question marks. 

Teaching capital letters and ending marks is an important skill when you are teaching sentence writing.

I usually begin with the period because it is the most basic of the three.  After that, I introduce the question mark. I finish up with the exclamation point. We do a lot of oral practice as we work on punctuation. A favorite activity involves students getting a card with a period on one side and a question mark on the other. I read a sentence and they hold up the correct ending mark card. The kids get so excited about displaying the correct punctuation!

After they've got a good grasp on periods and question marks, I'll throw in exclamation points. We repeat the card deck activity with exclamation points and question marks. Then, I'll combine all three together. This can take a few days or a week or two depending on your students. Go at their pace to be sure they understand each ending mark. This is important stuff! Of course, we do lots of reinforcement with handouts and printables where they have to add the correct ending mark, find the error, and write the sentences correctly.

4. Build a Deeper Understanding

How do we do this? You guessed it! More practice. Practice, practice, and more practice seem to be the key to this sentence writing unit. We complete tons of chart activities where students practice writing who, what, when, where, and how words. 

Build a deeper understanding of good sentence writing with printable worksheets like these you can use in your classroom every day.

They then take those words and turn them into great sentences! This is where the magic happens! The more unique words you can expose your students to in this phase, the more word variety you will see in their sentences. I absolutely love seeing the sentences they create at this point compared to the "boring ones" they started with. 

5. Craftivity

Every fun lesson in my room includes a craft! This one is no different. Now that you've completed your sentence writing unit, it's time to get creative. 

A fun craftivity like this is the perfect way to wrap up your sentence writing unit.

Have your students show off their new skills by creating the perfect sentence. I like to have them write a "Homerun Sentence." I'll provide them with a fun bat to write it on. They'll also get a boy or girl figure and a piece of construction paper to glue it on. The baseball theme makes it so much fun! Plus, it turns out so cute and makes a great bulletin board display! In my opinion, it's the perfect way to wrap-up this unit! 

Writing Great Sentences Just Got Easier

Don't be overwhelmed with the process! It really isn't as hard as it may seem to be. It just takes lots of time and practice to master the skill.  Just remind yourself that writing a good sentence is often a full-year goal for our primary students. So don't rush the process! 

If you are ready to save some time and add these fun activities to your lesson plans, you can grab my How to Write a Sentence resource. This complete unit will help you teach your students everything they need to know about how to write great sentences. It includes everything I discussed above plus more! Inside you'll find small posters, noun, verb, & adjective cards, tons of printables, a writing craftivity, and even answer keys!

Grab this fun sentence writing resource to use in your first grade classroom this year as you teach your students how to write great sentences.

Your students will love learning how to write an exciting sentence from start to finish, and you'll love how easy it is! You can grab my resource in my TPT store. 

Save it for Later

Be sure to pin this image to your favorite classroom board! You'll be all set and ready to go with 5 tips to help students write great sentences.

Looking for easy no hassle ways to help your students write their best sentences this year? Use these 5 tips to help you teach sentence writing in fun ways your students will love. From hands on activities, to printable worksheets, to a fun craftivity, teaching sentence writing has never been easier. #thechocolateteacher #teachingsentencewriting #sentencewritingforlementarystudents

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