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Color-Coded Sentence Diagrams

Grammar rules are a lot more fun to learn when bright colors, map-making, and cooperative games are part of the learning experience!

  • Grade 3
    Grade 4
    Grade 5
  • 30 Minutes or Less
  • Directions

    1. Share Ruth Heller’s parts of speech books with the class. Start with Merry-Go-Round: A Book About Nouns and Kites Sail High, which is about verbs.
    2. On dry-erase boards, write short, two-word sentences, using only a noun and a verb, with Crayola Dry-Erase Markers. Add a simple word, such as a or the to the beginning of the sentence to make a three-word sentence. Match nouns and verbs to make silly simple sentences, such as The ball bakes or A man skips.
    3. After exploring Heller's Mine, All Mine: A Book About Pronouns, substitute pronouns such as he, she, it, or they, for nouns. Add more verbs to make new sentences.
    4. A sentence diagram is like a map. To make a simple diagram, draw a horizontal line. Divide it with a vertical line down the middle. Nouns and pronouns are placed left of the vertical line, verbs on the right. Use dry-erase markers to diagram the sentences. Color code nouns and verbs, perhaps with black and red.
    5. Continue to read Ruth Heller books. Hairy, Scary, Ordinary: A Book About Adjectives and Many Luscious Lollipops introduce many fun words used to describe nouns. To add adjectives to a sentence diagram, draw diagonal lines under the noun. Try a green marker to write adjectives.
    6. Learn more about verbs by reading Up, Up and Away: A Book About Adverbs. Use a blue marker to add adverbs written on diagonal lines under the verbs on the sentence diagram. Fill the board with sentences and then erase to try new ones.
    7. Learn all about prepositions in Behind the Mask. Where would you put a preposition in a sentence diagram? Find out!
    8. As students' diagramming skills improve, have them work in small groups to diagram more complicated sentences. Take turns passing a dry-erase board around to group members. Each person places a word in the correct position on the diagram.
  • Standards

    LA: Read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poetry, in the grade level text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.

    LA: Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

    LA: With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacherled) with diverse partners on grade 5 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    VA: Know how the differences among visual characteristics and purposes of art in order to convey ideas.

  • Adaptations

    Encouarge students to read Fantastic! Wow! And Unread! A Book About Interjections and Conjunctions by Ruth Heller. Discuss with teammates what an interjection is. How have these phrases changed over time? Students use bright colors and bold, patterned letters to create an interjection poster. Display the poster in the classroom for quick reference. Using the interjection poster, students write short stories and include some of the interjections throughout their stories.

    Students work in small groups to create lists of favorite nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. Individually, students write these inside their writing folders. Students add new terms as they become familiar with them through academic and personal experiences. The writing folders are kept in student desks for quick reference when writing.

    Provide students with a list of simple sentences. Students work in small groups to improve the simple sentences with engaging modifiers. Students use the dry erase boards and markers to analyze the complexity of their original sentences.

    Students work in small groups to create original sentences. Swap sentences with another group and analyze the sentences using the sentence diagram.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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