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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Sentence a Day . . .

The first half of my fourth grade English book is packed with parts of speech. Chapter by chapter students learn about nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and more.

The second half of the book presents a variety of genres of writing: personal narratives, persuasive essays, descriptions, informative pieces, and so on. Students move through the genres and learn how to tackle each one,

This makes perfect sense, right? Wrong!

  • Parts of speech, though necessary, are only one of the many aspects of language. And teaching them as isolated components is not effective. I've learned this from experience. Kids learn about nouns, take the test, forget about nouns, learn about verbs, take the test, forget about verbs... You get the picture.
  • Writing employs nearly all language skills. In order to become effective writers, students must work on it all year long. Delegating it to the second semester robs students of important practice time.

How can this problem be solved? I believe that the "old school" had it right: sentence diagramming. I dedicate about one-fourth of my daily English instruction to grammar and mechanics. The remaining three-fourths is spent on writing and speaking. With ten or fifteen minutes of daily sentence diagramming, my students master their parts of speech in ten to twelve weeks.

The process is easy. We start small. During the first week, we review nouns, verbs, subjects, and predicates. Each day students label parts of simple sentences like this:

Ducks quack.

As the weeks progress, we add articles, conjunctions, adjectives, etc. We learn about sentence types and simple subjects and predicates. Daily sentences start to look more like this:

Close that blue and red door.

Adverbs and prepositional phrases, which have the annoying habit of moving all around in a sentence, are taught last. By focusing on one part of speech per week, students are soon flying through sentences like this:

As the ruby red sun set in the distance, a gleaming jet bent its wing and headed home.

A sentence a day is the best way! Students learn the role of each part of speech and how they interact with one another. 

You can easily "layer" parts of speech in your language arts instruction time. Need help? Check out Parts of Speech Compacted Moderate Pace or Parts of Speech Rigorous Pace at my Teachers pay Teachers store.