Saturday, 15 August 2015

Finding Sentences Structures

Earlier this year, whilst on a school trip to the National Space Centre, a colleague and I were reading some information when she exclaimed, "Ah, nice embedded clause there". This then developed through the rest of the day with us trying to spot types of sentences we'd not seen so far that day. Some of the children even got involved. In fact, for one of them, it meant she read a whole lot more than she probably would have done otherwise! 

As a result, I decided to do more of finding sentence structures within texts to look at how and why they've been used...
1. Authorial Intent
During reading activities (guided, group, class, one-to-one and so on...), look for sentence structure variety. Discuss what sentence structures have been used and why the author has chosen to use them. Do they stick to a certain type? Do they have large variety? Does the child(ren) know and use those sentences?

2. Write Sentences Into a Story
When I read Alan Peat's 'A Second Book of Exciting Sentences', I found in it a story called 'The Minotaur’s Revenge’. This story contained in it examples of the sentences from both of Alan Peats' books about sentence types. My class read this story (enjoying it) and found many of the sentence types we'd been learning to use. As a result, I had a go at my own story (just using the sentences from 'Writing Exciting Sentences: Age 7 Plus') and that story can be found here (Also, answer key). Again, my class enjoyed reading the story (whilst agreeing I shouldn't give up the day job) and the challenge of finding the sentence types. I was very clear that this was a contrived exercise and I was not suggesting or expecting that their story writing should reflect this example of including a group of sentences in a text. In addition, I included a couple of sentences that showed how the rules taught when learning these sentences can be tweaked and adapted, which lead to a interesting discussion. A text example (fiction or non-fiction) could be written as an exemplar for something being studied and then include relevant sentence structures. 

3. Sentence Structure Booklets 
Each week, our children write down words that are new to them and find out their definitions. Following on from this, I created a booklet for children to use during reading time (at home and in school) to write down the sentence structures they come across as they read. A copy of this booklet can be found here. And, for those using Alan Peat's 'Writing Exciting Sentences: Age 7 Plus', this (select pages that are useful to your children, don't just print off the whole lot) and this may be of use.

4. Sentence of the Week 
Some easier than others but, if you have a Sentence of the Week: "Can anyone find an example of that in a book"

After children have found a number of sentences in published work, can they identify any particular sentence structures that fit a fiction and non-fiction and then genres? The main area of discussion, and the largest section in the booklets I gave the children to use, is authorial intent. Why is the sentence used? What's the impact?

Some of the ideas outline above have been done with Alan Peat's own advice about using his work and his blog post 'Exciting Sentences – a word of caution' in mind. The ideas and resources shared here do not contradict that advice in the way they were delivered.

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