How to Teach Speaking in Complete Sentences

12:05 PM

Writing in complete sentences is an important part of being an adult. When I send home report cards or notes home, I have to write in a way that clearly communicates what I am saying.  "Kid talk much" doesn't give a lot of information.  "Sammy is working on using self-control and not talking while others are talking." sets forth clear information.

using pictures to teaching speaking in a complete sentence

Speaking in complete sentences can be very difficult for students.  They are used to speaking in very short answers in response to questions or when sharing information.  Part of that is that body language plays.  I can hand a student book and say "Read".  My body language and actions supply the information that my words do not.

However, body language and actions are missing when it comes to writing.  This is one reason it is important to teach students to SPEAK in complete sentences as well as write in complete sentences.

Speaking in complete sentences builds clarity in thought because students have to think about the information they want to give.  It also builds grammar skills because a complete sentence will have a variety of grammatical pieces.  Also, speaking in complete sentences builds vocabulary because students have to have words for all the things they want to say.

Here are a few ways you can build that skill.

1. Set the expectation.
Expect your students to speak in complete sentences.  This requires a lot of training up front.  Since it isn't a skill that students generally already have, it's important to hold them accountable from the beginning.  This will often look like students saying something like "it's a four" and you reminding them to use a complete sentence or modeling and having students repeat "This number is a four."

2.  Model, Model, Model
This is hard, I'm not going to lie!  It's so easy to fall back into the habit of speaking in phrases.  My students LOVE to catch me not using complete sentences so I make it a game.  When they catch me not using a complete sentence, they get a PawBuck.  Sometimes, when we have been slacking, I will pick a day for a competition.  Every time they catch me not using complete sentence, the class gets a point.  When I catch them not using complete sentences, I get a point.

3.  Provide specific and targeted instruction and practice.
Complete sentences do not happen by accident.  It takes instruction and practice.  I like to use pictures to start with.

First, I show a picture and have students think of things to say about the picture.  This gives students a topic to focus on and visual cues.  When looking at this picture, a student might say "The cat is wearing a brown hat." or "The cat looks like a detective because he has a magnifying glass."  I generally accept anything that is related to the picture and in a complete sentence.

using a picture to practice speaking in complete sentences

Next, I move on the answering questions about the picture.  For this picture I might ask "Who are the characters in the picture?" or "Who is in the picture?" Students are required to answer by saying "The characters in the picture are an astronaut and an alien." 

use a picture to practice answering questions in a complete sentence

The last step is for students to write in complete sentences.  I like to use picture prompts for those too.  

use a picture to practice writing in complete sentences

You can find this resource in my TPT store by clicking here or on any of the pictures.  

This resource includes:
  • 15 printable and projectable images
  • 10 writing pages with and without sentence starters
  • Targeted questions you can ask for each picture
I would love to hear your other ideas for teaching students to speak in complete sentences!  Drop me a line and let me know how you do it!

by Crystal @Primary on the Prowl

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  1. I LOVE this post! Answering in complete sentences is a huge goal for my students! Thank you for sharing these great ideas!


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