Teaching First Graders How to Write a Sentence

First graders, as you know, come with varying levels of skills.  Some students will be clueless on how to even begin writing a sentence.  That’s when the teacher needs to brainstorm with those students. Here are some ideas that are good with first graders, ESL students, or students with learning disabilites:

  • Pick a topic to write about that is of high interest.  It’s close to Valentine’s Day, so I will pick Valentine hearts.
  • Discuss with the students, “Now what do we want to say about hearts?”  Let them share their ideas and write them on the board.
  • Pick one idea that is not a complete sentence such as “pretty and red.”
  • Explain that a sentence is about someone or something.  Ask, “What is it that is ‘pretty and red?’  Our sentence has to tell us.”   Hopefully, someone will say “a heart.”
  • Write the complete sentence on the board:  A heart is pretty and red.  Underline the two main parts of the sentence and show that the sentence is about “a heart” and “is pretty and red” tells about that heart.
  • Another student may have said, “a pink heart.”  So the teacher would ask, “What about a pink heart?  The sentence has to tell us something about this pink heart.”   The end result might be:  A pink heart is on the table.
  • Go through the other student ideas and work together to make sentences out of them.
  • Then give each student a heart-shaped piece of handwriting paper and let them try writing their own sentence.

Some students will be able to sound out words to write their own sentence, and some students will not be able to do that.  With those students, you need to work one-on-one:

  • Ask what their sentence is about.
  • Start with the first word, sound it out slowly for the student, and go sound by sound while having the student write the sound they hear.
  • Do this with each word until the sentence is finished.

Soon, when the students feel more competent in writing a sentence, discuss with them the following:

  • Sentences always start with a capital letter.
  • Sentences always end with a period or something else.  Nearly all their sentences will be telling sentences at this point.

Always praise their work and find something positive to say about it.  Make them feel proud and take ownership of their work.   Those who are fearful of writing should eventually get to the point where they can write their own sentence.

* If your students can write sentences, then you might want to read “How to Teach Kids to Write a Paragraph.”

Example of a Simple Book: I Like Trucks and Cars

Here is another example of a simple book I made with a four year old tutoring student using pictures out of the Sunday paper.  We worked on color words, sight words, and adding “s” to the end of the word “car” to make it mean “more than one.”  He caught on real quick to that.  (This student was reading when he started kindergarten.)

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Example of a Simple Book: Spider-Man

Here is another example of a simple book I made with a four year old tutoring student, a big fan of Spider-Man, who knew all his alphabet sounds.  We were working on learning to spell the word “man,” so this book reinforced what we were working on and motivated him to want to read. He really enjoyed this activity.

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