Students need to elaborate and extend their ideas to make a detailed, precise and coherent piece of text. The use of a variety of sentence structures including extended simple sentences, compound sentences and complex sentences create texts that are more interesting and paint a more vivid picture in the reader’s head. Students are able to confidently enhance their writing by understanding how sentences are structured for effect.
Writing and speaking clearly demonstrates students' control over
- clause types and patterns – adjectival, adverbial, verbless, non-finite, embedded
- dependent clause position
- length and rhythm
- increased elaboration and extension
- stylistically appropriate choices
What is a clause
There are two types of clauses:
- A main (independent) clause: stands alone as a complete sentence, for example ‘Rick came first’. However, an independent clause may be joined to other independent clauses with a conjunction (and, but, nor, or, yet) to result in a compound sentence, for example, when joined to ‘He was exhausted’ the compound sentence is, Rick came first but he was exhausted.
- A subordinate clause (also known as a dependent clause) is a group of words that cannot stand alone or make complete sense on its own. It needs to be combined with a main clause and joined using a subordinating conjunction or a relative pronoun to form a complete sentence. Subordinate clauses will usually be adverbial or adjectival clauses. The following are examples of complex sentences:
- The person who has the winning number wins the jackpot.
- This is the cake that Elizabeth baked.
- My cousin, whose child you just met, is a dentist.
- The teacher asked the students whom she believed to be the most reliable and talented to audition.
- The car, which was a little red Corvette, tooted its horn.
- Note: in the following sentence whichever acts as a determiner identifying the letter:
- I will open whichever letter arrives first.
For more strategies to teach complex sentences see Stage 3 Teaching Strategies.
A compound sentence is formed by adding two main (independent) clauses together using conjunctions. A main (independent) clause: stands alone as a complete sentence, for example ‘Rick came first’.
However, an independent clause may be joined to other independent clauses with a conjunction (and, but, nor, or, yet) to result in a compound sentence, for example, when joined to ‘He was exhausted’ the compound sentence is, Rick came first but he was exhausted.
Activities to support the strategy
Activity 1: fanboys
This scholastic website has excellent resources for teaching students how to recognise a sentence and help them avoid the problem of run-on sentences. www.scholastic.com/teachers/classroom_solutions/2011/02/compound-sentences
Activity 2: sentence scramble
Put students into groups of 3. Give each group two large sheets of construction paper in two colours, scissors and a marker. Instruct your students to choose one sheet of paper and cut it into long strips. Give the class an overall topic such as “walking the dog” or “your last birthday party”, and ask each group to write 10 simple sentences on the topic.
Next, instruct them to create shorter strips with the other piece of construction paper and then write out as many connecting words as they can think of. Remind them of the acronym FANBOYS to recall coordinating conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet and so.
In the last part of the exercise, ask each group to choose two sentence strips and a conjunction to create a compound sentence and read it to the class. This exercise can be repeated until all the sentences are used by all the groups.
Activity 3: learning in context
Have students comb through a passage of literature, either from a class reading or an individual book. Either you or they will choose a section. Give them a graphic organizer set up as a chart: the first column is for the first simple sentence (independent clause); the second column is for the conjunction; and the third column is for the second simple sentence. Instruct students to chart the compound sentences that they find in the passage.
This hands-on activity presupposes that students already have been taught the difference between a dependent and independent clause and know the definition of a compound sentence.
Activity 4: compound sentence dominoes
Prepare index cards that have various words as different parts of speech: nouns, verbs, conjunctions, prepositions, and so forth. It will be helpful to label each word as a particular part of speech, since words will vary as parts of speech, according to their usage. Put a selection of index cards in bowls, and assign kids to groups of 3, 4, or 5. Using any game that works on a points system, instruct students to play the game, but instead of receiving points, they receive index cards pulled randomly from the bowl. The first person to create a compound sentence wins, and part of the fun is seeing what kind of silly sentences students will create.
Activity 5: combining choppy sentences
Write a paragraph with short choppy sentences. Each sentence should contain one idea, and the entire paragraph should be about one topic. Create groups of 4 students, and distribute sentence-strip paper. Ask students to work together to rewrite the paragraph using compound sentences. Ask them to write each compound sentence on a strip of paper. Using one of the walls in the room or large sheets of butcher paper, have each group hang their sentence strips.
Pinterest: ideas for displaying compound sentences
Australian curriculum reference
ACELA1481: Understand that a clause is a unit of grammar usually containing a subject and a verb and that these need to be in agreement.
NSW syllabus reference
EN2-9B: Uses effective and accurate sentence structure, grammatical features, punctuation conventions and vocabulary relevant to the type of text when responding to and composing texts.
NSW literacy continuum reference
COMC10M7: Comprehension, Cluster 10, Marker 7: Responds to and analyses texts by discussing the ways language structures and features shape meaning.