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Kids want to be writers. But no one wants to be an “okay” writer. Teachers want all of their students to be the best writers they can be! Great writing starts with great sentences.

  • 1.

    For this sentence building/learning activity, arrange young writers in groups of two or three. Each student will need a dry-erase board and Crayola Dry-Erase Crayons.

  • 2.

    Ask each child to write a simple three-word sentence across the top of the board. Model a sample sentence on an individual dry-erase board so students can see both the content and appropriate letter size for their own writing. For example a simple sentence might be, “The pony ran.”

  • 3.

    Invite students to exchange dry-erase boards with other members of their groups. Each student can rewrite the original sentence, adding or changing one thing to expand (not change) its meaning. Model an example of expanding meaning by rewriting the sample sentence so it now reads, “The pony galloped.” Show children how you wrote the new sentence directly below the original sentence.

  • 4.

    Children can continue exchanging boards to build better and better sentences that may include adjectives and adverbs. After several sentence changes, allow children to add a three-word prepositional phrase if they want to. Model an example, “The pony galloped across the field.”

  • 5.

    Continue this activity for a set amount of time or until there is no more room to rewrite sentences on the dry-erase boards.

  • 6.

    Invite each child to read aloud the original, three-word, simple sentence and the final expanded sentence. Discuss how adding descriptive words and phrases improved the way a reader can imagine the meaning of the sentence. Invite children to depict the meaning of the final sentence in an illustration using Crayola Markers on drawing paper.

Standards

  • LA: Produce complete sentences when appropriate to task and situation in order to provide requested detail or clarification.
  • LA: Speak in complete sentences when appropriate to task and situation in order to provide requested detail or clarification.
  • VA: Students will investigate, plan and work through materials and ideas to make works of art and design.

Adaptations

  • Fold large drawing paper in half. Write the simple three-word sentence on the front of the folded paper. Illustrate this sentence using simple figures to depict exactly what the sentence says and no more. Open the folded paper and write the final, expanded sentence on the open paper. Illustrate this sentence to reflect all the details included.
  • Try this introductory activity to help children understand what is and is not a sentence. Invite children to write three words together on a dry-erase board. Ask them to determine whether or not the three words make a sentence. Discuss why or why not. Erase boards and ask children to write three words that do make a sentence. Look at each sentence to determine whether or not each is truly an example of a sentence. Work together to make observations and record characteristics of a sentence on a large dry-erase board.
  • Set up a free time or center activity focused on simple sentences. Children write three 3-word “sentences” on dry-erase boards. One is a sentence with subject, verb, capitalization, and punctuation. Another is clearly not a sentence. And the third is a “trick” sentence. Partners can erase the sentences on each other’s boards that are not true sentences, leaving just the one that is a sentence remaining on the board.
  • Share a favorite children’s book such as Ezra Jack Keats’ Snowy Day. Prior to reading, write a few sentences from the book on individual dry-erase boards so there are enough for each individual or pair of students. Provide dry-erase crayons and erasers for children to label the sentence and/or expand it.