When your kids have learned the art of putting together a few words to form a single short sentence, it is time to start teaching them how to write longer sentences or sentence expansion. Teaching kids to write longer sentences in English can be a challenge. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best way to teach kids to write longer sentences in English will vary depending on their age and level of fluency. But with a bit of guidance, they can learn how to construct longer sentences that are both coherent and engaging.
When teaching kids to write longer sentences, it’s important to start with simple concepts. By providing your children with specific instructions from an early age on how to speak and write longer sentences using correct English, you will help them develop the critical skills necessary to improve their writing skills.
In this article, we have compiled key grammar lessons which will enable your children to form long, meaningful, and grammatically correct sentences.
Fragments, Run-ons, and Sentence Expansion
Every sentence, short or long, must have two important components – a subject and a predicate. The subject is what (or whom) the sentence is about, whereas the predicate provides information about the subject’s action. The absence of any one of these components in a sentence is known as a fragment. For instance, “a small brown puppy in the park” is a fragmented sentence as it’s missing a predicate.
A run-on contains statements that go on and on without any punctuation and is just a repetition. Usually, when children are asked to write long sentences, they tend to write run-ons, for instance, My dog likes to play in the mud and I play fetch with him and I like to play with him even though he plays in the mud.
To assist your children, write correct lengthy statements without fragments and run-ons, you should teach them sentence expansion using the proper methods. For example, you can write on the board, Ayesha bought mangoes. Tell your children that they can make this sentence more interesting by adding some details to it. Instruct them to ask questions like why or when and include their answer in the sentence. So, the above example can be written as –
Ayesha bought mangoes to make ice cream. (Why did Ayesha buy mangoes?)
Ayesha bought mangoes yesterday. (When did Ayesha buy mangoes)
Once they have grasped a basic understanding, they will be able to form one long sentence (such as – Ayesha bought mangoes yesterday to make ice cream for her mom because it was her birthday) using this method of expansion.
For children to have a solid foundation in reading and writing, it is important to teach them proper sentence structure.
Now that Christmas is coming up, let’s take an example of building a gingerbread house to illustrate the significance of sentence structure. You have all the items you need in front of you to construct a festive and quality gingerbread house. You have a general notion of where things should go, but if you assemble the parts in the wrong sequence, the result will be distorted. In the end, you can have something that resembles a gingerbread house but is full of flaws both in terms of design and functionality.
Similarly, you need to teach your kids that knowing a few words or phrases won’t help them build a meaningful sentence and that comprehending the appropriate sequencing is crucial in order to write a proper sentence.
The way in which the main grammatical components are put together to construct a statement is known as its sentence structure. These grammatical elements refer to the subject, predicate, and object (in this particular order) which must be present in every sentence. To help your children gain a better understanding of complex sentences, you can teach them additional grammatical elements such as prepositions and clauses.
Four types of sentence structure
Simple sentences are normally the first ones that kids write on their own. It primarily consists of a subject, a verb and makes complete sense. It might also include an object, one independent clause, or a prepositional phrase. For instance, She searched for her sister at the train station. Here, ‘she’ is the subject, ‘searched’ is a verb and ‘at the train station’ is the prepositional phrase. A prepositional phrase often helps expand a simple statement.
It is imperative to explain to your children that simple sentences are not always short but that using too many of them might make a paragraph or essay difficult to read and write.
To make sure your kids fully understand the concept, you can draw a straight line on paper, mention the subject, verb, and/or object beneath it, and then instruct your kids to form a sentence and write it on the line. Ask them to construct lengthier sentences following the same pattern after a few lessons.
Unlike simple sentence structure, compound sentences are a combination of two or more independent clauses connected either by a coordinating conjunction or a semi-colon. The well-known mnemonic which will make it easier for children to commit to memory the different coordinating conjunction is F.A.N.B.O.Y.S which stands for – For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, and So.
Each sentence in a compound sentence structure can stand alone as a full sentence, regardless of whatever conjunction the child decides to use to join the two parts of the sentence. For example, She broke her leg, so she didn’t go to dance class is a compound sentence. Now when you separate the two statements (She broke her leg. She didn’t go to dance class), it will still give you two meaningful simple sentences because they contain two independent clauses.
You can help your children understand compound sentence structure with the help of worksheets. You can create a worksheet on your own for your kids to practice. All you need to do is write down two to three sentences and ask your children to make it one whole sentence using conjunctions and/or semi-colons.
One more exercise you can do with your children is called “But, Because and So.” This activity was introduced by Dr. Judith Hochman (author of the book called Teaching Basic Writing Skills), to assist children in sentence expansion and it also encourages children to learn new information and articulate that knowledge into writing. Give your kids a simple statement, for example, Brushing teeth is important. Let your kids use but, because and so to lengthen this statement. For instance, they could write,
Brushing teeth is important but you also need to floss.
Brushing teeth is important because it keeps your teeth clean.
Brushing teeth is important so you must do it every morning and every night.
Complex sentences consist of one dependent and at least one independent clause. These dependent and independent clauses are linked using subordinating conjunctions such as – although, if, even if, until, whenever, though, in order to, and so on. For instance, Although Shirley ran to school (dependent clause), she was still late for the morning prayer (independent clause).
You can make a list of the subordinating conjunctions which your children can memorize. This will enable them to form longer sentences. Complex sentences will help children write lengthy statements related to cause-and-effect relationships, complex ideas, and comparisons.
To help your children learn complex sentences, give them a subordinating conjunction and a dependent clause, and then ask them to come up with an appropriate independent clause to complete the sentence. You can reverse this exercise by giving them an independent clause and then asking them to think of a proper subordinating conjunction and a dependent clause to finish the sentence.
A compound-complex sentence consists of at least two independent clauses and one dependent clause. For example, Since the library was closed, Uma ran home and finished her homework. This sentence starts with a subordinating conjunction and is a dependent clause followed by a compound sentence. Children can form long and properly structured sentences using compound-complex sentences. It will help them articulate and write even complicated notions.
You can reinforce the concept of compound-complex sentence structure by jotting down multiple sentences and then asking your kids to identify and underline the dependent clause and independent clause. You can provide them with a subordinating conjunction and a dependent clause and ask them to add a compound sentence to make a whole statement.
Your children will learn new words if you use a variety of terms when you talk to them. For them to employ words in sentences, children must be familiar with a wide range of vocabulary. When children are exposed to different kinds of words – synonyms, antonyms, homonyms, etc. it makes them more capable to express and communicate their thoughts and ideas in a verbal as well as written format. The greater their vocabulary, the more effectively they can describe events and compose long and even complex sentences about them.
The sentence structures mentioned above are an effective tool for children to enhance their ability to build longer sentences but it can only be done if your children are well acquainted with the meaning of verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc., which can be taught through vocabulary.
Keep in mind that your kids will undoubtedly need time and plenty of opportunities to practice writing lengthy and expressive statements. This cannot be achieved overnight so you need to be patient with them.