As a school, we have been working to have students speak in complete sentences are now moving towards having them using complete sentences in their writing. Now that we have conquered this piece, it is time to move forward to compound sentences.
Students need to begin learning to combine ideas so that their sentences are longer and more coherent. By reading complex text, students SEE how authors’ put their ideas together in different and unusual ways. It is this exposure that helps our students see that we can change up a subject and a predicate or combine like ideas into one sentence. We do not always speak this way and therefore–we do not write this way.
Have you listened to your students speak? I mean, really, speak. Ask them a question. Listen to their response. Do they speak in complete sentences naturally? Are the sentences coherent and distinct or a stream of consciousness? List the characteristics you notice. Ask your students to write about a topic for a few minutes. Compare this writing with the characteristics you noticed in their speaking—are they similar?
The next step after a complete sentence is a compound sentence. Show students how to combine subjects and adjectives to keep from having to write repetitive sentences. Begin showing students how they can use conjunctions to tie their ideas or sentences together. A subordinating conjunction which is simply a word that can help you extend your sentences to make them longer and more complex. Subordinating conjunctions include the words for, but, and, yet, so, or and nor. This can help your students transform their understanding of syntax. For example: Spiders have eight legs. Insects have only six legs. These sentences can become: Spiders have eight legs, yet insects only have six.
Simple changes can help students extend their thinking and sentences. More complex subordinating conjunctions include the words: after, although, as, as if, because, before, even though, if, once, since, though, unless, when, that. These words help students further explain their ideas and make their sentences more complex. We use the conjunction because to answer the simple question of why!
Taking the above sentences: Spiders have eight legs. Insects have only six legs. We combined these with the conjunction–yet. Can it be done other ways?
- Spiders have eight legs but insects only have six.
- Spiders have eight legs even though insects have only six.
- Insects have six legs though spiders have eight.
- Insects have six legs when spiders have eight to help them sense prey on their webs.
How did the use of conjunctions change my last sentence? It is important we show students that sentences can be built in many ways. We want sentences both written and oral to “sound good” but to also provide the most detail in the most efficient way.