Many students find it challenging to distinguish between complete sentences and sentence fragments. As a parent, you may be wondering, “How can I help my child understand the notion of sentences?”
Begin by telling your child that a sentence is like a very short story. Just like a real story, a sentence has to tell you something, and has to name who or what it is telling about.
- Try to impress upon your child the difference between a functional expression like “off the lights,” which is a sentence fragment or incomplete sentence, and a grammatically correct expression like “Turn off the lights.”
- Start a sentence with a name. Say, “Kate has a school bag” or “Calvin likes bananas” and have your child repeat the sentence with you. These are complete sentences because they tell who or what the sentence is about. Who has a school bag? Kate has a school bag! Who likes bananas? Calvin likes bananas! “Kate” and “Calvin” are the subject of the sentence.
- Ask your child to say the word “sentence.” To get across this notion, you should provide some phrases that don’t have subjects. Say “…has brown eyes” or “…is eating rice.” Help the child focus on the necessity that a sentence must name who or what it is about. Complete the non-sentences for them by saying, “Sara has brown eyes,” or “Hui Leng is eating rice.”
- When your child begins to appreciate the necessity of having a subject in the sentence, try an expression that eliminates the predicate (that’s the part of the sentence that is left over when the subject is taken out) by saying, “The children…” and see if your child can provide the rest of the sentence. The predicate should state something about the sentence. For example “The children ate breakfast at the restaurant,” or “The children read books with their mother and father.”
A sentence is a group of words that makes sense. “is eating rice” doesn’t make sense because we don’t know who or what is eating rice. The words in a sentence must also be in the correct order. “rice Susan eating is” does not make sense. Try some nonsense sentences like this on your child and ask why the words do not make sense. See if the child can re-arrange the words into a real sentence. Try putting these sentences in order
bridge car the drove on the.
Swam the in ocean they.
Slept night all mother my.
danced the to music we.
Great work! We will continue to explore the notion of sentences as we learn more together in future posts.[:]