Teaching Sentence Structure to High School StudentsPosted In Writing | Posted By Kristy Robins
The ability to write well plays a huge role in a student’s success in academics and in future employment. To compose an effective composition, college application essay, business letter, or work email, students must be able to execute an array of sentence structures. Teaching your homeschool students about the various sentence structures will help them to produce polished prose for any occasion or assignment.
The Basics: What is Sentence Structure?
While there are countless combinations of words, luckily there are only four sentence structures. In order to correctly identify a sentence’s structure or type, students must be able to identify subjects and predicates and understand how they form independent or dependent clauses.
- * The subject is the person, place, thing, or idea that the sentence is about and that is performing an action.
- * The girl smiled.
- * The predicate contains the main verb and its modifiers.
- * The girl smiled.
Additionally, a student must be able to recognize whether a subject and predicate forms an independent clause or a dependent clause.
- * An independent clause is a subject/predicate combination that expresses a complete thought and can stand on its own as a complete sentence.
- * The dog howled plaintively.
- * Notice that the above sentence contains a subject, “The dog,” and a predicate, “howled plaintively.” It is a complete sentence.
- * A dependent clause has a subject and predicate, but it cannot stand on its own as a complete sentence because it does not express a complete thought. These clauses usually start with a subordinator and must be attached to an independent clause in order to form a complete thought.
- * A subordinator is a word that makes the clause dependent on an independent clause.
- * When the dog howled plaintively.
Notice that the above sentence contains the same subject and predicate as before, but the addition of the subordinator “when” makes it unable to stand alone as a complete sentence. The subordinator indicates that more information must be provided to make a complete thought and that the dependent clause must be joined to an independent clause.
Once the student has a firm grasp of subjects, predicates, independent clauses, and dependent clauses, he or she is ready to learn the four types of sentence structures.
Types of Sentence Structure
There are four types of sentence structures in the English language. Learning to master each type provides a strong writing foundation for future writing lessons. The four sentence types are:
- * simple sentences
- * compound sentences
- * complex sentences
- * compound-complex sentences
Simple sentences, as the name implies, are the easiest type of sentence for students to understand and compose. This very basic sentence structure features one independent clause.
Simple sentences can be as short as two words like this example:
- * Children played.
- * This simple sentence contains a subject, “children,” that tells what the sentence is about.
- * A predicate, “played,” states the action or state of being of the subject.
- * Though it is not very detailed, the sentence expresses a complete thought.
Sentence length is not enough to determine whether a sentence is simple. Some simple sentences, even though they only consist of one independent clause, can get quite long if the writer includes many modifiers. Consider this simple sentence:
- * After many days of stormy weather, eager children played together at the neighborhood park.
- * The subject and predicate are the same as in the previous sentence.
- * The addition of modifiers does not affect the type of sentence structure.
- * Because there is one independent clause, this is a simple sentence.
Simple sentences can take on a compound subject or a compound verb or both. Remember to count the independent clauses to determine sentence structure.
- * After many days of stormy weather, eager children and their dogs ran and played together at the neighborhood park.
- * This sentence has one independent clause.
- * subject: “eager children and their dogs”
- * predicate: “ran and played together”
- * This is still a simple sentence, but it has a compound (more than one) subject and a compound verb.
A compound sentence is usually the second sentence structure that a student learns. It consists of two or more independent clauses. The independent clauses are joined by a semicolon or by a comma and coordinating conjunction. For an easy way to remember the seven coordinating conjunctions, have your students memorize the acronym FANBOYS (For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So).
Consider these examples of compound sentences:
- * Children played, and their parents chatted.
- * In this example, the two independent clauses are joined by a comma and the coordinating conjunction “and.”
- * Children played; parents chatted.
- * In this example, the two independent clauses are joined by a semicolon.
A complex sentence is created by combining one independent clause with one or more dependent clauses. If the dependent clause (DC) comes first, it is followed by a comma. If the independent clause (IC) comes first, no comma is necessary.
Here is an example:
- * After the rain stopped, the children played.
- * In this example, the dependent clause “after the rain stopped” starts the sentence and is followed by a comma and the independent clause “the children played.”
- * (DC, IC)
- * The subordinator “after” helps to identify the dependent clause.
- * The children played after the rain stopped.
- * In this example, the independent clause “the children played” starts the sentence and is followed by the dependent clause “after the rain stopped.”
- * Because the independent clause starts the sentence, no comma is needed.
- * (IC DC)
A complex sentence may have more than one dependent clause as illustrated by this example.
- * After the rain stopped, the children played while their parents chatted.
- * In this example, a dependent clause starts the sentence, followed by an independent clause and a second dependent clause.
- * (DC, IC DC)
A compound-complex sentence is the most advanced sentence structure type. It is created by combining two or more independent clauses and at least one dependent clause. The punctuation rules follow the same pattern as with the other sentence types. Consider these examples:
- * After the rain stopped, the children played, and their parents chatted.
- * In this example of a compound-complex sentence, a dependent clause is followed by two independent clauses, which are joined by a comma and coordinating conjunction.
- * (DC, IC, IC)
- After the rain stopped, the children played, and their parents chatted while they sipped their coffee.
- In this example of a compound-complex sentence, a dependent clause is followed by two independent clauses, which are joined by a comma and coordinating conjunction and followed by a second dependent clause.
- * (DC, IC, IC DC)
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