Hey y’all! I’ve been hard at work and busy planning and prepping a few presentations for several upcoming conferences (hence the radio silence). I’m heading to Indiana, Tennessee, and NOLA in November and I can’t wait!!! In the meantime, I wanted to share a few things I’ll be discussing in a few of those sessions…particularly guided reading. Today I wanted to take a break from all that planning and prepping (I have a sick one here at home!!!) and talk a little bit about reading simple sentences.
First, look at this face. This is not the face of a sick child, is it?! Bless. He’s got a case of strep and since he hasn’t been fever free for 24 hours, we get to spend the day together. He’s a ball of energy right now…of course. He’s sitting here with me drawing me a Valentine’s picture, writing letters, and finishing off his Christmas list. I’ll take these unexpected one-on-one days any way I can get them!!!
Now let’s get down to business.
Getting our kids to understand what makes a “good sentence” can be difficult, can’t it?!
“Be sure to start with a capital!!!”
“Don’t forget your spaces!!!”
“Make sure it makes sense!!!”
“Don’t forget your punctuation mark(s)!!!“
Our kids have so much to remember that oftentimes the “rules” of writing get lost in the process. Not that we aren’t teaching them, but our babies get so overwhelmed that they oftentimes can’t see the forest through the trees. Know what I mean?! So how can we give them experiences that allow them to practice these rules?! Here are a few things I’ve done with my kids to give them opportunities to read & write simple sentences.
Building sentences. I think this one is self-explanatory and I’m sure this is something you do in your classroom, too. I like to introduce the concept during small group. I’ll take a sentence from our guided reader, write it on a sentence strip, and then cut up the sentence strip by word and have the kids help me assemble it. Because they’re familiar with the text, they feel a little bit more comfortable putting the sentence together and reading it. This is a great way to introduce a new concept. Making sure the entire idea isn’t new, just parts of it. They tend to comprehend and a lot better this way. Sometimes I’ll even take several different sentences, write them, cut them up, and send them home with the kids in their reading baggies OR have them each assemble a different sentence in small group. Of course, when they build a sentence I also want to give them the opportunity to transfer print to writing so that they can practice those rules of writing!
While it’s definitely important to give our kids the opportunity to build CORRECT sentences, I think it’s also important to give them experiences creating INCORRECT sentences, too. I want my kids to be able to identify what’s wrong with sentences when they’re written incorrectly. I want them to carefully read sentences and determine whether or not they make sense. This is such an important concept! Especially when it comes to reading!!! It seems like we are constantly practicing the “Does it make sense?!” reading strategy all year long. Giving them isolated experiences with this strategy and giving them opportunities to create real/nonsense sentences, really helps to reinforce this concept.
I want them constantly thinking!!!
Speaking of thinking, isn’t that something we want our kids doing ALL the time?! Yes!!! Hopefully critically thinking. We need to give them outlets and experiences to do so. One thing I love doing with my kids to really make them think and analyze is giving them a set of sentences and then making them determine which sentence does not belong. Basically a “which one of these is not like the others” activity. You can really do this with ANY concept/skill. They actually have to carefully READ the sentences, determine which sentence is incorrect, identify what makes the sentence incorrect, and then re-write it correctly. I’ve also found that this is a great little assessment piece.
Another way I can assess my kids’ reading skills and understanding is by having them read a simple sentence and then illustrate it. Simple and effective. This is also a great activity to do when you’re teaching your kids about illustrating their stories in Writers Workshop and this goes hand in hand with the “Eagle Eye” reading strategy, too.
I love getting my kids to understand that just one word can change a sentence and this is how I get them to practice that concept. I give them a sentence and then underline the subject. They write that sentence and circle the subject then use a different word in it’s place and rewrite it the new way. This has been a great activity for whole group as well. You can write a sentence on your chart paper and have the kids help you identify the subject. Then brainstorm a new word to fit in it’s place. But it has to make sense (even if it makes the sentence a little silly 😉) This is a great activity to do when working on a particular vowel/word family. You can prompt your kids to replace the subject with a word belonging to that vowel/word family.
I have found that one of the best, most effective ways to get our kids to understand and practice a skill/concept is to engage them with games!!! I love it when my kids are having fun and don’t even realize they’re learning. Isn’t that the best?!?!
One of our favorite simple sentence games gets my kids reading carefully and thinking hard. We play tic-tac-tell. They have to read sentence cards to determine if the sentence is written correctly. If it is, they get to add an X/O to the board. If it’s not, they have to tell what is wrong with the sentence AND they lose a turn 🙂 This is one of my favorite one-on-one intervention activities!! Once my kids have a hang of this game, I put it in their anchor tubs (fast finisher activities) to play with a partner. This also makes for a great assessment activity.
Assessment DOES NOT always have to come in pencil/paper form (cough, worksheets, cough). Just sayin’.
One of our favorite small group simple sentence games is Read and Cover. If you have my Guided Reading Phonics Bundle you already know how much I love my Read and Cover games…and so do the kids!!! This gives my kids the opportunity to read sentences aloud and search for matching pictures. Another simple assessment that’s fun and effective. This is also a great independent activity.
Of course, you already know how much I love my Roll & Remove games. We use lots of phonics based Roll and Remove games during small group and independent practice. I decided we could do this with simple sentences, too! It’s definitely a favorite! Again, the kids are playing and having fun and don’t even realize they’re learning and practicing important concepts/skills!!! LOVE that!
Finally, we want to make sure we’re giving our kids lots of opportunities to read independently. Of course, they should be reading text that are suited to their reading abilities. I also make these clip cards available for extra reinforcement. This is a great independent activity and is perfect for either a center or fast finisher station/tub. I also like to use these for assessment. Here’s how I do that. I have my kids take 5-6 of the clip cards, read the sentences, and then clip the picture/missing punctuation (depending on the objective). Then they take their name card, place it next to their completed work, and snap a picture with either my phone or iPad. Then I have VISUAL documentation of their understanding.
REMEMBER..assessment DOES NOT have to always ben pencil and paper!!!!
I hope these simple sentence ideas help you!! They’re easy to implement small group or for independent practice and can be modified for whole group use as well.