What is a sentence? Use basic sentences from your child’s favorite books to point out the essentials:
- Sentences start with capital letters.
- Sentences form a complete thought.
- We know they end when there is specific punctuation (start with periods, then add question marks and exclamation points).
- Sentences have a subject and then explains what is happening to or about the subject.
Select several sentences from your child’s favorite books. The sentences should be basic and easily understood on their own. Some examples include:
- On Monday he ate through one apple. (The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle)
- Snow had fallen during the night. (The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats)
- People called her Miss Rumphius now. (Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney)
- Have your child use these sentences for copy work. When preparing for copy work, you might want to neatly print or type up the sentence in a large font for your child rather than having him copy from the book.
- Discuss how points 1 and 2 are evident in each sentence. Point out the punctuation marks. Activity idea: As a next step for point 3, change the ending punctuation for each sentence and discuss how that changes the meaning the sentence.
- Introduce the concept of “subject” and ask your child to tell you the who or what of each sentence (he, snow, people). Make sure your child differentiates between who and what, as this prepares him for the specific definition of noun which is taught later. Activity idea: Have your child underline/circle or highlight the specific subject. Have him use a different color or different method (underline or circle) to differentiate between who or what.
- After determining the subject, discuss how the other words in the sentence explain the actions and give details about the subject. Activity idea: Have your child highlight in a new color or put a square around the words that show what the subject did (ate, had fallen, called).
- Discuss the structure of the sentence: most often, although not always, the subject will come before the action in the sentence. Activity idea: Write each word of each sentence on note cards. Mix the note cards up. You can do this for each sentence for beginning students or mix up the sentences for more experienced students. Have your child organize the word cards into the sentences. Initially, your child may need to look at the copy work in order to recreate the sentences, but the goal is for your child to complete the activity without the aid of seeing them.
You might feel compelled to jump into more challenging ideas (adjectives, phrases, etc.) too quickly. One of the greatest weaknesses that I see in homeschooling is that parents assume their children have knowledge and skills based on limited exposure, particularly learning skills in isolation. That is why I am not a big fan of workbooks for teaching writing.
Remember that mastery is your goal. You want to do this type of teaching with your child until you feel confident that he has the concepts. Once these basic types of sentences have been tackled and accomplished, you can use more challenging sentences.
Thanks Beth for this great info!