Simple sentences: adverbial and adjectival phrases
While simple sentences are important in grammatical analysis facilitating explanation and development of other sentence structures, their usage and study is critical in Stages 2 onwards due to the expanding lexical density and the unpacking of complex ideas required in nonfiction texts. Nonfiction texts studied at this level may have simple sentences, with very complex ideas, that are often several lines long.
A basic simple sentence consists of a main clause (an independent clause). It has one verb and a subject, and it may have an object that expresses a complete thought. Sophisticated Structures include – Extended simple sentences, for example ‘Like all living things, animals have personalities too.’
Simple sentences may also contain noun groups and verb groups that contain embedded prepositional, adverbial and adjectival phrases. A simple sentence can be short, with uncomplicated ideas – but a simple sentence can be long with complicated ideas. Simple sentences with complex ideas are widely used in the secondary context. It is critical to unpack these sentences in a variety of ways.
Activities to support the strategy
While a simple sentence conveys information quickly, too many simple sentences – without complex ideas, can make the reading / writing appear choppy and disconnected. Writers with advanced linguistics use a variety of sentence structures – including simple sentences.
Fiction authors will make use of simple sentences, often reducing the complexity of ideas, to allow readers to move quickly through text and are frequently used when moving towards the action / climax of the piece. At this point complex or compound sentences could detract from the tension, conflict and / or action.
Activity 1: simple sentences extended by adding phrases to add complexity: adverbials
Simple sentences have only one verb or verb group. Students add adverbial phrases to add meaning to the verb.
In small groups students generate a list of simple sentences which include subject, verb, object. These can be written on large labels.
- The girl ran in the first race.
- The dog begged for its food.
- The boy drew a picture.
Simple sentences are unpacked with examples and opportunities for students to develop their own examples.
Sentences are shared using targeted metalanguage. For example:
The noun group and subject of my sentence is …
The verb I have used is …
The object or noun group of my sentence is …
Students still in groups then generate phrases (groups of words without a verb) which answer the following questions:
- Where? (place): at home/in the park.
- When? (time): early this morning/at midday.
- How? (manner): at a leisurely pace/as quickly as possible/with friends.
Game: musical build a sentence
All cards are placed into groups: simple sentences, when phrases, how phrases and where phrases – half the class pick up simple sentence cards and the rest pick up phrases – Teacher plays music and students walk around. When the music stops simple sentence holders must link with phrase holders to create an extended simple sentence. Sentences are shared using meta-language to describe, for example: Our simple sentence uses an adverbial phrase of time and place.
Activity 2: simple sentences extended by adding words and phrases to add complexity: adjectivals
Adjectives and adjectival phrases add meaning to the Noun group. EAL/D Learners – order of adjectives must be taught.
Use this chart with students to generate and discuss vocabulary within extended noun groups.
Activity 3: using quality texts to discern sentence complexity
Provide oral and written models in quality texts that show the wide range of information to be unpacked from simple sentences in nonfiction and fiction texts. Students need to reflect on and discuss meaning gathering. See the Kids News Websites provided in Online Resources below for some examples of texts to use in reading when unpacking simple sentences.
Use this as a model:
"The RSPCA is strongly opposed to the introduction of safari style hunting in the Northern Territory".
Students examine the subject, verb group and then the object “the introduction of safari style hunting in the Northern Territory.” in terms of “… the introduction of safari style hunting” and its implications and then opening the next packet of information “… the Northern Territory.”
Example of a simple sentence with dense content:
The object contains complex information that needs to be unpacked for deep comprehension.
|Subject (noun)||Verbs + adverbial (how)||Object (nouns + adjectives)||Adverbial (where)|
|The RSPCA||is strongly opposed to||the introduction of safari style hunting||in the Northern Territory.|
ACELA1508: Expressing and developing ideas: Understand how noun groups/phrases and adjective groups/phrases can be expanded in a variety of ways to provide a fuller description of the person, place, thing or idea.
EN3-6B-3d: Outcome 6: uses knowledge of sentence structure, grammar, punctuation and vocabulary to respond to and compose clear and cohesive texts in different media and technologies (EN3-6B) - Understand and apply knowledge of language forms and features: understand how noun groups/phrases and adjective groups/phrases can be expanded in a variety of ways to provide a fuller description of the person, place, thing or idea
EN3-6B: Outcome 6: uses knowledge of sentence structure, grammar, punctuation and vocabulary to respond to and compose clear and cohesive texts in different media and technologies (EN3-6B) - Understand and apply knowledge of language forms and features: understand how ideas can be expanded and sharpened through careful choice of verbs, elaborated tenses and a range of adverb groups/phrases
NSW literacy continuum
Kids’ news websites – writing stimuli: