Writing Sentences in First Grade
December 27, 2020
Writing sentences in first grade, kindergarten, or second grade can be a difficult thing to do. Today, I wanted to share the steps I walk through the get my primary students feeling comfortable writing sentences. They will learn the parts of a sentence, how to write a complete sentence, and how to make detailed sentences.
You can see all this information by watching the video below over on my YouTube channel:
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To read the 5 steps I take to teaching sentence writing here, just keep scrolling!
Step 1: EXPLAIN what a sentence is
Explicit teaching is so important when teaching a new skill. It is even more important when it comes to teaching our youngest learners. If we want our students to write sentences effectively, then we need to teach them and show them exactly what a sentence is!
To help me do that, I like to use an anchor chart like this one:
When teaching what a sentence is, I explain that a sentence is a group of words that when put together, share a complete thought. I also like to point out the naming part and telling part of a sentence, along with the fact that our sentences start with capital letters and end with punctuation.
We will usually talk about the progression of letters and how letters make words, then we use words to make sentences, and sentences to make paragraphs, etc.
Step 2: Identify Parts of a Sentence
This is where I want my students to take what I just taught them and make sure they are able to go ahead and identify different parts of a sentence. There are a few different ways I like to do this. I will go ahead and use sentence strips to make a bunch of different naming parts and telling parts of a sentence. You could also just print out these ones I have ready-made in my Sentence Writing Unit on TPT.
I would go ahead and choose one of the naming parts to explain that this is a naming part because it tells us the WHO or the WHAT of the sentence. I would also point out the capital letter at the beginning. Then I would model holding up a few different telling parts and as a class, we would determine which telling part(s) could complete the sentence to make sense.
After we practice this a few times, I would have students use the naming and telling parts to mix and match and make different sentences and illustrate using a sheet like this:
After they’ve practiced this a few times, as an extension, I would have them identify the parts of a sentence using a practice sheet like this one below where they use different colors to identify both parts of a sentence and then illustrate to show understanding.
Step 3: Model how to write our own sentences
Once students know what a sentence is and they can easily identify sentences and their parts, we move into teaching them HOW to write their own sentences. To do this, I like to use an anchor chart like this one to show them the 5 steps I follow:
Now depending on how you teach writing in your classroom, you will likely teach this slightly differently. For example, if you teach using the writing workshop method, you will teach how to write these sentences within your writing unit. Let’s pretend you are teaching personal narratives and you’ve already done your illustrations. To model writing a sentence, I would use my illustration to brainstorm a sentence (My sister and I went to the beach). I would model saying it aloud, counting the words, drawing the lines, writing, and then reading it back. We would do this a few times so students can see how I would brainstorm sentences to add to my story.
If you’re teaching how to write sentences as a stand-alone unit, then there are 3 different ways I like to teach students to write their own sentences.
(1) Predictable sentences
(2) Sight word sentences
(3) Illustration sentences
With predictive sentences, you are doing the most work by giving students an almost complete sentence and they need to think of their own word or two to finish it. This is great for kindergarten students so they can copy over correct words and feel confident, then add their own word(s) to create their sentence.
Sight word sentences take it one step further as you supply students with a common word and they must make their own sentence using the word. Lastly, illustration sentences are fun because they just look at an illustration and brainstorm their own sentence about what they believe is happening in the picture. As you can imagine, these are scaffolded a bit so you can use the different sentence types with different grade levels or groupings of students depending on what they need at the time.
Step 4: Write, write, write
Now it’s time for students to practice writing their own sentences. In my Sentence Writing Unit, I created a bunch of practice sheets for students to begin creating their own sentences. There are 12 different sheets for each type of sentence (predictive, sight word, and illustration sentences). Also, at the bottom of each practice sheet, I made some checkboxes where students can mark off if they’ve added a capital letter, punctuation, spaces, and if they’ve read it back to make sure it makes sense. This way students get used to checking what they write.
You can see what some of the practice sheets look like here:
Step 5: Expand!
Okay once students can write their own sentences, we need to get our students to expand their sentences and start writing more details! To help with this, I like to use the question words. To model, I will simply start with a sentence like this one:
Original sentence: The girl sat.
Super sentence: Jenny sat at her desk and ate her snack.
Then we walk through some of the question words, and with the help of my students, we expand our sentence to create our own super sentence! I make sure to explain to students how when we add more details to our sentences, the reader gains so much more information about what is happening in our story.
You can have students practice this by generating simple sentences, then have students use the question words to expand the sentences. I have a bunch of these practice sheets in my sentence writing unit along with everything else in this post.
I like to have students expand their sentences within their writing workshop pieces as well. These free posters to help students ask themselves specific questions depending on whether they are writing a fiction or nonfiction piece.
You can grab these free posters below:
Those are the 5 steps I like to take when teaching students how to write sentences! You can see that depending on your class’s grade level and skill level, you might jump in at step 3 or 4. You may also use any of these activities in small groups depending on what your students need.
All of the activities and anchor charts you’ve seen here can be found in my Sentence Writing Unit over on TPT. You can click below to grab them:
Do you have any other great tips for teaching how to write sentences? Leave them in the comments below!