It is very tempting to answer questions with short sentence fragments. When my kids do that, I truly sympathise. (Honestly, I was a young child once upon a time!) However, we spent a large chunk of today focused on sentence structure, and why it’s good to answer in complete sentences.

We started with a recap of complete sentences, fragments, and sentence types: statements, questions, commands, and exclamations. (This was mainly to help us focus on punctuation, and sentence length.)

We also talked about PQA: Put the Question in the Answer. It’s a method with many names but they all mean: restate the question keywords to help construct your answer sentence. “Where did Robin Hood live? He lived in Sherwood Forest.” We expanded upon PQA by looking at good answers and bad answers. We came up with some really inventive questions for the bad answers but discovered that the good answers effectively directed their own questions. (This exercise was designed to steer students toward saying the good answers were better because it’s obvious what the questions must be i.e. a question directs the format of a good answer. However, one child said the bad answers were better because it was more challenging to come up with corresponding questions. I both do and don’t love that response!)

A great exercise for recognising sentence structure, is to use your junk mail and some highlighter pens. Amazingly, the only time junk post would have been useful, I couldn’t find any. So, I printed out a short DK article on Stone Age food, and the kids highlighted the beginning capital letters and ending punctuation for every sentence.

highlight-parts-of-a-sentence

We did two more chapters of Dinosaurs Before Dark*, and I saw a real improvement in the quality of the kids’ comprehension answers. It made all the time spent on sentence structure, this morning, seem worthwhile. (My early finisher did a fun dinosaur word search, and I bumped the marking to the evening. Sometimes, you just need the break!)

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