Drumming up the class’ enthusiasm to write complex sentences is a tricky task for many primary teachers – after all, the clue’s in the name.
Why do something complex, when you could do something simple?
A child who writes their sentences in the simplest possible way will be able to indulge in a precious five minutes of fidgeting, before going on their merry way to afternoon break; it’s almost faultless logic!
Encouraging children to include at least one independent clause and build a complex sentence will revolutionise their ability to tell expressive and exciting stories – but of course, you know that already. It’s them we need to convince!
To persuade the nay-sayers in your class that it’s well worth the investment over other, coveted activities (such as casually rearranging their pencil pot or poking the child sat next to them), just take a look at our three fun tips for teaching complex sentences.
1. Sandwich Sentences
A complex sentence relies on the additional detail which stops it from simply being a beginning and an end.
The sentence ‘I’m a dinosaur’ may give you an accurate fact, but requires a bit of filler to make it truly engaging. Much like a sandwich, a complex sentence requires a start and an end (the bread) and an extra bit in the middle (the filling) – such as ‘I’m a very friendly dinosaur’.
In order to get your class writing delicious sandwich sentences (rather than dry crackers), try handing out pictures of sandwiches, and ask the children to form their sentence around its layers. If you think this will be too much to start with, you could provide the ‘bread’ of the sandwich yourself and ask the class to provide as juicy a filling as they can muster.
The more filling the class can provide, the tastier the sandwich will be!
2. The Five W’s
If your class struggle to find ways in which sentences can be stretched, the Five W’s – Who? What? When? Where? Why? – will make the process much easier.
Working well as a memory game between five participants, each child can take it in turns to own one of the W’s in sequence, and create a fun sentence stretcher that leads on from the previous statement.
Who? The alligator.
What? The alligator was eating pizza.
When? The alligator was eating pizza this morning.
Where? The alligator was eating pizza this morning in my Granny’s garden.
Why? The alligator was eating pizza this morning, in my Granny’s garden, because he hadn’t been fed for days.
Whether silly or serious, the Five W’s will certainly open your class’ minds to complex sentences, and the difference they can make to your writing.
3. I Like It
To further encourage the class to enjoy creating complex sentences, ask the children to write down something they like – and why. It could be a favourite food, toy, activity… anything they fancy.
For example, ‘I like my teddy because he’s snuggly’.
The sentences are then cut in half and put in two mystery boxes – a ‘what’ box and a ‘why’ box. When the children pull out two halves to read aloud, they’ll get some pretty crazy sentences! Does another child in the class have the half that would make more sense?
To finish the game, the children can transcribe their sentences (either the crazy one they picked, or the one that’s more logical) and draw a fun picture to illustrate.
Imagine how boring the game would be if the sentences weren’t complex!
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About the author
Emma Ralph was an Assistant Head Teacher at Hillbourne Primary School in Poole, where she helped to improve the school’s literacy standards. Spotting a gap in the market for a literacy resource which taught children the fundamentals of punctuation, vocabulary and sentence structure in a visual, fun and engaging way, Emma developed her own product: Mighty Writer. It is now transforming the literacy of tens of thousands of children in over 550 schools around the world.