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activities and ideas for improving your students' sentences and writing. Perfect for 1st and 2nd grade!

Sentence Practice

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Is it just me, or do second graders just not seem to know how to write a complete sentence? I mean, sure, they’ll have a complete thought, but it’s missing the capital letter and the period at the end. Or, there are only three words in their sentence. PLEASE tell me this isn’t only my seconds???


activities and ideas for improving your students' sentences and writing. Perfect for 1st and 2nd grade!


To help combat this issue this year (and it truly is an issue in our room!) we worked our way through a “sentence writing boot camp” so to speak.

What Makes a Sentence?

To start off with, we reviewed what actually makes up a sentence. Now, I KNOW my kindergarten and first-grade teachers worked on this… but we needed a little extra reminding.

descriptors of a sentence
So together, we brainstormed: What makes a sentence an actual sentence? Here’s what we came up with… (Nothing too fancy here!)

-Has ending punctuation (. ! ?)

-Starts with a capital letter

-Is a complete thought (has a subject and a predicate)

-Have 7-8 words

I added in that second-grade sentences should be 7-8 words long. This helps curb the three-word sentences so many of my kiddos want to give! Using those as a guide, we worked to write an exemplary sentence. A sentence that had all the components that a good second-grade sentence has.

Our sentence: The dog ran across the street and to the park.

Now that we knew what makes up a sentence, we were ready to read sentences and phrases. To complete this activity, students read each phrase or sentence with a buddy. Then, together they decided if it was a sentence or not a sentence. Once the pairs read all the strips on the paper, the kiddos cut them out and glued them under the correct heading. If they weren’t sure, they double checked with their buddy.

Sentence or not a sentence cut and paste

The kiddos also could reference back to our quick descriptors we had brainstormed at the beginning of the lesson.

Activities for improving students sentences- So many great ideas here for helping students write better sentences. TheApplicousTeacher.com

Ending Punctuation

Now that we understood what a sentence was and could identify an example and non-example, we were ready to tackle the ending punctuation. And more specifically: what types are there and when do we use them.

To introduce the three types of ending punctuation, I used these punctuation posters. We discussed each punctuation mark, when to use it, and how to write it.

ending punctuation posters
We also practiced saying the sentence on each poster just as the ending punctuation told us too. The kiddos loved getting a little goofy with their voices and this teacher loved building reading fluency during our writing time. #multitaskingnija
Finally, we were ready to read and sort some sentences into their correct ending punctuation. We made these three pocket folders and labeled each pocket with a different ending mark. Together, we read a few sentence strips and worked to decide which ending punctuation would best complete the sentence. We sorted it into the correct pocket.
ending punctuation foldable
The next day, students completed the activity again with new sentences. This time, we just quickly reviewed the ending marks and when each should be used. Then, students were on their own. Students cut, read, and sorted the sentences from the previous day and the new sentences.

By the end of the week, we were ready to write our own example sentences. Once again, we reviewed the ending punctuation posters. Then, each student got a blank sentence strip paper. Students were to write three of their own exemplar sentences.

A few of my kiddos were having trouble remembering how many of each type of sentence they should write, so I quickly worked to color code their papers. Each colored box corresponded with the color of the punctuation poster.  The extra one was a bonus for them!

If students were unsure of what the sentence should “sound” like they reviewed the previous day’s example sentences.

Once they finished writing their sentences, the kiddos traded with a buddy and challenged them to cut and sort their sentences. Of course, my students loved challenging each other!

You can find everything I mentioned above here in my “How Does It End” unit.

Using Conventions While Writing

Another simple, but effective, trick to help with our sentences only requires a marker. When students finished writing, I’d have them go back through their sentences and highlight their capital letters and ending punctuation, making sure that every sentence started with a capital and ending with the correct punctuation. This was perfect for those kiddos that always seem to finish a little too early (and maybe rushed their work a little too much!)

Activities to Improve Writing Conventions

To help solidify our sentence rules during centers, I added in my “Fix it Up” Writing Cards to the rotation. To complete the center, students chose a card. Then copied the card letter and sentences on to the recording sheet.

LOW PREP Writing conventions center

The kiddos worked to fix any mistakes they saw in the sentence of the card.

Once they finished copying and correcting three cards, they choose one “bonus” activity from a card to extend their learning.

I seriously love pulling this center out every few weeks. It helps keep our writing conventions fresh! Those are just a few of the activities we used to help us with our writing conventions. Now, when I have those incoming seconds who just can’t seem to write complete sentences, I have all the tools I need to help solidify those writing conventions!
Activity ideas for helping students write better sentences

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Hi, I'm Leigh.

The Applicious Teacher is all about creating hands-on and engaging lessons that align with the standards while still having time for your life. This is your place for ideas, tips, and resources for the REAL teacher!


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