When you’re looking for activities for practicing sentence structure, consider games and activities that get students interacting with each other and moving around. Conversation Play-by-Play has the possibility of being both.
Who remembers DOL worksheets?
When I was growing up, I specifically remember sitting down to do Daily Oral Language (DOL) in middle and high school. These lessons were truly done every day. It was literally the first thing on the schedule just after attendance.
The worksheets were simple and pointed, and definitely required us to focus on grammar and language usage.
The good thing…for me, these daily lessons worked.
The bad thing…they were redundant and pretty boring.
Although I love a good well-designed worksheet and activity as much as the next teacher, sometimes our students need to practice grammar and punctuation skills through interactions and activities.
Today, we’re going to talk about the Conversation Play-by-Play.
This activity is one of the many activities and lessons from my L1 Standards-Based Learning Resource. In addition to this and other sentence structure activities, this resource provides teachers with the tools to teach and assess the L1 standard.
The L1 resource focuses on 3 main objectives:
- explaining the function of phrases and clauses
- choosing different sentence types
- placing phrases and clauses within a sentence while also correcting misplaced/dangling modifiers
If you’re looking for a resource that takes you step-by-step through teaching sentence structure, be sure to take a closer look at the L1 Standards-Based Learning Resource.
The Conversation Play-by-Play
The Conversation Play-by-Play is designed to get students interacting with and learning together. Like many activities for practicing sentence structure, this one can be adapted to fit the needs of your class and the abilities of different learners.
This activity is simple.
- Start by filling a bowl/cup for each group with all the different sentence structure types your students are currently working with. I suggest including 2-3 of each sentence structure in each cup.
- Split students into pairs or groups of three.
- Each group will need a sheet of paper or access to a Google document. I like having students work through the activity on paper as many of my students need handwriting practice, and this is a good win-win situation there.
- Start the activity by writing a starting prompt on the board. These can be simple questions (What is your favorite food? How do you spend your time?), locations (the grocery store or at a carnival), or even a sentence to start the conversation (Did you see that guy running over there? How old was she when that happened?). Since students will be writing dialogue, anything that prompts a reply will work.
- The group will draw a sentence structure from the bowl.
- Then they’ll write the first line of dialogue using that type of sentence structure. Encourage them to write the dialogue like a script, but they can have as many speakers as they would like.
- Then, they’ll repeat that process over and over until they have used up all the slips in the bowl, and they’ve written a full conversation.
- Have each student take a role in the conversation, and then ask them to work individually on their part of the conversation. (For example, if Sara is student 1 and Jon is student 2, then Sara will draw the first sentence type, and come up with the first line based on that sentence structure. Then Jon will draw. He will then respond to Sara using the sentence pattern he drew… and on and on.) This option works better for students who are more advanced.
Once they are done, encourage groups to read back through and fix any errors in their writing.
I like students to make two copies of the conversation. One that is just the conversation written out line by line, and one that has the same conversation written out, but is also labeled with the sentence structures.
After the groups finish their Conversation Play-by-Play, you have many different directions you can take the activity.
#1 | Pass and Break Down
After the groups finish their conversations, they pass the conversation to another group. That group then breaks down the conversation by labeling the sentence structures. They will hand it back to the original group to check their work.
#2 | Grammar Rules Gallery Walk
To support these activities for practicing sentence structure, create a set of posters or anchor charts that can be hung up around the room when working on grammar/usage.
These anchor charts will outline the key things to remember for each grammar or usage rule you’ve discussed in class.
If you have something like these posters that students can refer to, have the students work their way from poster to poster, identifying the rules exemplified in their conversations.
For example, you may have a conjunction poster. When students rotate to that poster, they will label the conjunctions in their conversations.
Maybe you have a dependent vs. independent clause poster. When students get to that poster, they’ll label the clauses in their conversations.
#3 | Presentations
Students will ‘present’ their conversation as a dramatic play. Over-dramatizing the simple conversation. After each sentence, a third person in their group will identify the type of sentence structure for the class.
You can also remove the third person, and instead have the students in the class write down the sentence structures being used in each line. After their presentation, the group will present a second time, this time revealing the correct sentence structures.
Other Activities for Practicing Sentence Structure
When coming up with activities in the classroom, I like to use the same concepts, but create different fun ways to diversify the activity for different times of the year.
With activities for practicing sentence structure, like the Conversation Play-by-Play, making the activity seasonal is really easy.
Around the holidays, rather than putting the sentence structures in a bowl, we hang them around the room on Christmas light cut-outs.
In the spring, we hide the sentence structures in eggs outside, and groups have to run around and collect 12-15 eggs before opening them and revealing the sentence structures they have to work with.
As a bonus, here are two more interactive activities for practicing sentence structure that will get students moving.
Bonus Activity #1 | Races
Write out 5, 7-sentence paragraphs on large sticky notes or posters. Number each sentence, and then hang them up around the room. (This activity also works well in a hallway, outside, or in the gym.)
Pair up students and give them one sentence structure per group.
Using a stopwatch, time the students as they race from one poster to another. As they move, they have to document which sentences from each paragraph are examples of the sentence type they’re searching for.
Some posters may have one example. Others may have more than one. In the end, the group that is the fastest and has all of their sentences correctly identified wins.
I like this activity for getting students moving, so playing it outside where you can spread everyone out is an awesome option for the warmer months of the year.
Bonus Activity #2 | Classroom Poster Scavenger Hunt Bingo
Create a Bingo card with different sentence patterns and structures in each box. (Note: You’ll have more than one of each on every card.)
Give a Bingo card to each pair or group of three.
The goal, students will have to race around the school and try to earn a Bingo by finding posters hanging up around school that exemplify each sentence structure on their card. Students will have to find the example, write down what the poster says and where it was found for the example to count.
The first group to finish the task wins.
You may need to be thinking ahead on this one as some complex sentence patterns are less likely to be found on a poster. If needed, create some posters that will fulfill the missing patterns, and hang them up a couple days before you have this activity planned.
As always, make sure your activity is not disrupting other classes, so let other teachers know that you are going to be doing this activity, and remind your students about good hallway and classroom etiquette.
Other Activities for Practicing Sentence Structure
For even more ways to practice sentence structure, take a closer look at the digital resources below!
Rewards for Winners
In a few of these activities, students are encouraged to work hard to ‘win.’ Don’t worry about having just one winner. Any student who completes the activity correctly can win.
If you want to reward your winners, take a look at this blog post! We’ve given 5 fun reward ideas you can use to praise your students’ efforts!
There you go!
So many different activities for practicing sentence structure! Remember, if you are loving these ideas, be sure to roam around the blog a little more and see what other activities we have for you.
Also, if you are in the market for an L1 Standards-Based Resource that will take your students step-by-step through this standard, then be sure to head on over to the store to check it out!