How to Teach Children to Write a Sentence – Learning to Write Sentences
Learning to write sentences can be challenging for children, so in this post, we will look at ideas to help teach children to write a sentence. Learning to write is a long process that starts with learning the basics such as understanding what letters, words and sentences are. Once children have learned how to put together letters to make words, they can begin to put words together to make sentences.
The following activities are ways adults can help children begin to think in sentences (orally compose) and begin to write them down.
Sentence Cut Out
When children first start learning to write, they find it difficult to put their ideas together into a sentence. They may also have difficulty remembering their sentence before they finish writing it. The result can be a random jumble of words. To help children practise composing sentences and holding their ideas in their head, they can practice putting together sentence cut-outs.
To make sentence cut-outs – children will need to think of the sentence, say it out loud, and count each word on their fingers. Then, children can practice saying the sentence out loud again on each finger to make sure that they remember the same sentence. This activity helps them think about how to form a sentence and then practice holding the sentence in their head so they can remember how to write it. An adult then writes out the sentence for them and cuts out each word. Then the child has to put the words back together in the right order and stick it onto the page.
Sentence stems can help children practising forming and writing sentences by giving them part of the sentence and only having to think about and write the end of the sentence. For children just beginning to write, you might have a sentence stem written out for the child such as ‘I like ________’ or ‘I went _______’. Then children can fill in the remaining part of the sentence. You may also want to provide children with some word banks (see below). Once children have finished writing the sentence, they can re-read it to check it makes sense. This is good practice for writing to ensure they proofread their work and make sure what they write can be understood by others.
Using scaffolding lines helps children practice planning and writing sentences. To do this, children will need to plan a sentence by saying it to themselves, and then count the words on their fingers as they repeat it to themselves. Once children know how many words are in their sentence, they can draw a line for each word. To start, an adult can write out the lines on the paper with lines of different sizes depending on the length of the word. Eventually, children can draw lines in for themselves.
This activity is excellent for children who need help remembering their sentences and ensuring they write something that others can understand. It builds skills similar to the ‘sentence cut-out’ activity, but it is more challenging as it requires children to write it themselves while also holding the sentence in their head.
*Say the sentence, count the words, write the lines for it. This is like the Elkonin boxes of sentence construction.
Vocabulary Banks or Word Banks
Vocabulary banks are important to help children become independent writers. Whenever I have my class writing around any book or topic, I create a vocabulary bank (with images). Word banks help children with tricky words that they wouldn’t know or be able to sound out using their phonics (segment) to spell out. Giving them vocabulary banks can free up children to focus on constructing interesting sentences and checking that they make sense, rather than worrying about the spelling. Vocabulary banks are helpful for children just starting to write sentences, as well as stronger writers. They can also help children use more exciting vocabulary by assisting children in using language that may be new to them.
This is an example word mat for children to use when writing about a book.
Modelled writing is a great way to help demonstrate to children how to write and shows them the processes writers go through to write a sentence. When model writing in front of a group of children, you show children all the thought processes that go on when writing a sentence. It involves a lot of thinking out loud. To start, you can start saying your sentence out loud, correcting yourself if needed and then counting how many words your sentence has on your fingers as you repeat it. Then you can talk about what you need to do to start a sentence, a capital letter. As you write, you can model using phonics sounds to spell out words or using the word mats to help write more difficult words. It would be helpful if you also pointed out placing spaces (finger space) between each word that you write and punctuation at the end of your sentence. Once you have written it, then show children how you re-read the sentence to check that it makes sense and fix any errors. All of these processes should be said out loud in front of children. This way, they can see what you are thinking and doing to write a sentence successfully.
While reading isn’t a writing activity, it will help children’s writing to develop. Reading lots of books with children will help them develop language and expand their vocabulary, as well as an understanding of how sentences and stories are structured. It is also an opportunity to be exposed to different words so that they recognise what they look like when they use them for writing.
Conclusions – How to Teach Children Learning to Write a Sentence
I hope that these activities to help children learning to write sentences are helpful! Keep in mind that children need lots of opportunities to practice over time, so a little bit of practice often will help them learn.