Thursday, January 20, 2011

Adding A New Tool To A Writer's Toolbox

On Tuesday, I introduced my fourth graders to compound sentences. First, we brainstormed nouns and verbs and wrote simple sentences. Then, together, we connected two simple sentences with a conjunction (one of the FANBOYS -- for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so). They all gave it a try with two or three sentences on their own.

Tuesday afternoon, in reading workshop, a student came up to me with DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: THE UGLY TRUTH in hand and pointed out a compound sentence in the book.

Yesterday, Wednesday, we started writing workshop by singing the School House Rock classic "Conjunction Junction." Then I challenged them to write at least one compound sentence for their SpellingCity sentences. (SpellingCity is another post for another day.) Eight out of eighteen who finished sentences wrote at least one compound sentence with some kind of success. Two of the eighteen (the one who sighted compounds in Wimpy Kid, and another very capable writer) wrote exclusively in compound sentences.

Every student in my classroom has a new tool in their writer's toolbox: compound sentences.

Some aren't ready to use this tool (and might never be). They are still struggling to put words together into simple sentences and sentences together in paragraphs that make sense.

Some will overuse this tool with partial understanding and create run-on sentences with a conjunction in the middle, causing more problems than it might have been worth.

The thrill in making this tool available to my writers was watching those two who were really ready to try something new in their writing reach out for it and put it right to work, gleefully creating sentences that were more and better than any they'd ever written.


  1. Mary Lee, I love how you realized and shared the different levels in your room. Realistic.

  2. What a great post! It's a gentle reminder to all those educational "experts" out there that a kid is not really going to learn something until they're ready. You can drill them and test them all you want, but they have to be mentally, physically, and emotionally ready for that new concept in order for it to stick.

  3. I love the FANBOYS! And I want to be in your class! Do you know those Kilgallon Heinemann books: STORY GRAMMAR IN THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, SENTENCE COMPOSING IN THE ELEMENTARY CLASSROOM...? They're great, and I keep promising myself to do all of those exercises. A.

  4. I love when Reader's and Writer's Workshop begin to connect. Kids are great at putting the pieces together.

    Ummm. I can't quit singing "conjunction junction what's your function".

  5. Isn't it wonderful when your students point out things in their books that you have taught (vocabulary, grammar, reading skills, etc.)? What a great teaching moment!

  6. What a great teaching moment. :)

    My daughter's been learning compound words, and more recently contractions. I love how she keeps on 'finding' these words everywhere and sharing them.

    Catherine (Australia) .. who happens to have just discovered your fabulous blog. :)

  7. You could introduce the two compounders to that superhero of the punctuation world -- the semicolon. I love the semicolon; it gives sentences such versatility.


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