Students at the Foundation stage use their beginning writing knowledge to express one or two ideas in written texts. In order to support the beginning organisation of ideas students need a clear understanding that sentences are the key unit to express ideas in their writing.
Students need to understand that words within sentences are organised to express ideas. Sentences contain words or groups of words and meaning (making sense) is controlled to a great extent by word order (be mindful that students’ diverse language backgrounds may not rely on word order to make meaning). At this stage students compose mostly simple sentences and some compound sentences using simple conjunctions to connect ideas.
- make statements: There is a brown dog.
- ask questions: What colour is the dog?
- give commands: Look at the dog.
- join ideas: There is a brown dog and he is playing.
Although some students may have an innate sense of organising words to express ideas in writing, in Kindergarten students may not have the necessary breadth of experience. Students may have limited or no print literacy. Do not rely on student self-correction or prompt questions such as: ‘Does that sound right?’
Explicitly teach sentence structure by demonstrating what is possible with word order and what is not. Students will rely on teacher cues so use definitive statements to teach word order, for example, The words in this sentence are in the wrong order; This sentence makes sense; This does not make sense.
Engage students with frequent experiences of hearing accurate texts read aloud. Comment on the organisation of words and ideas. Prompt students to consider what words mean in a particular order and what happens if that order is changed.
Teach sentence structure for simple and compound sentences. Provide sentence scaffolds to guide students to organise and express their ideas in simple and compound sentences.
Activities to support the strategy
Activity 1: making sentences
This exercise can be a whole lesson, a regular literacy activity, a lesson break or writing warm-up to support students’ familiarity with making sense through word order and organising ideas.
- Use sentences from familiar or everyday texts cut up into words and reassemble them to make meaning.
- Use simple or compound sentences to differentiate the activity for your students’ learning needs and readiness.
- Include or remove sentence punctuation to differentiate the activity for your students’ learning needs and readiness.
Variation: Students add words and conjunctions to join ideas to the assembled text and form a compound sentence.
Variation: Students attempt to complete this activity in pairs or individually once they are familiar with it.
Extension: Use a sequence of 2-3 sentences from familiar or everyday texts cut up into words and re-assemble them to make meaning.
Activity 2: silly sentences
This humorous word order exercise can be done as a modelled or guided whole class activity, in small groups or as a literacy centre activity. It demonstrates that word order in sentences is important to meaning:
Note: model this activity before asking students to complete it – continue to model/guide whole class as necessary.
- Use sentences from familiar or everyday texts, or prepare your own.
- Select a sentence, read it aloud, write it down and draw a picture to match the sentence.
- Change the word order to create the opposite meaning, write the new sentence and draw a picture to match.
Optional: provide students with a graphic organiser or folded page for recording their sentences and drawing.
Changed meaning – The dog chased a stick/the stick chased a dog.
- Conclude with students sharing their pictures and sentences and discussing how the meaning changed.
Extension: Provide students with sentences that can be changed in more than one way and still make sense.
ACELA1435: Expressing and developing ideas: Recognise that sentences are key units for expressing ideas.
ENe-2A: Outcome 2: composes simple texts to convey an idea or message (ENe-2A) - Respond to and compose texts: create short texts to explore, record and report ideas and events using familiar words and beginning writing knowledge.
- Virtual refrigerator with magnet words to create sentences: www.apples4theteacher.com
- Instructions for a game that focuses on forming sentences rapidly and correctly: www.funenglishgames.com/activities/formingsentences