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September 29, 2017

Mastering Grammar With Mentor Sentences, Part 2

By Mary Blow
Grades 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    Welcome back to “Mastering Grammar With Mentor Sentences,” a grammar journey that I embarked upon this year. If you have not read "Mastering Grammar With Mentor Sentences, Part 1,” you might want to check that out first.

    In that part, I explain why I started using mentor sentences, walk you through selecting sentences from your classroom text to meet your students’ diverse needs, and describe an activity, Invitation to Notice. These bell ringer activities are based on a Scholastic Scope article, "From War to Freedom" by Kristin Lewis.  

    If you are not a Scholastic Scope subscriber, you can use the Mentor Sentence Template (a customizable Microsoft Word document) or the Mentor Sentence Template (PDF). Simply plug in any mentor sentence from the text that you are reading in the classroom.

    In this post, I'll walk you through four more grammar activities using mentor sentences harvested from our classroom texts.

    If you remember, the 5-day bell ringer activities take about 10 minutes each day and increase in complexity:

    • Day 1: Invitation to Notice
    • Day 2: Labeling the Sentence
    • Day 3: Grammar Rules
    • Day 4: Revise
    • Day 5: Create 

    Below is a "Mastering Grammar With Mentor Sentences" guide, a list of questions to ask, and some misconceptions I may need to clarify on each day.

    Day 2: Label the Sentence

    On day two, my sixth graders label the main parts of speech or the parts of a sentence. As suggested by Jessica Ivey in her blog post “Implementing Mentor Sentences in Upper Grades” (Ideas by Jivey), I only ask them to label the parts of speech that they know — no guessing. This allows me to assess their knowledge or understanding of domain-specific vocabulary. Depending on their abilities, some will label more words than others. At first, it is rough because many of my sixth graders can’t identify or define the parts of speech. With repeated exposure, they develop a better understanding of these academic terms and how they function in a sentence.

    I know there is research suggesting that teaching parts of speech is not an effective way to teach grammar. So why venture here? We need common vocabulary to engage in discussions. How do I explain that a compound sentence has to have a subject and predicate on both sides of the conjunction or joining word if my tweens don’t understand nouns, or realize that not every noun is the subject?

    This is where my frustration takes over as I keep backpedaling to teach domain-specific vocabulary. I don’t discuss every part of speech in the mentor sentence. The students may label everything, but in each discussion I focus on the vocabulary that is essential to the targeted concept.

    For example, when discussing complex sentences, we talk about the similarities and differences between dependent and independent clauses, which may use terms such as subjects and predicates or nouns and verbs. However, the mentor sentence helps us to identify them and draw arrows to demonstrate relationships, thereby, increasing their understanding of sentence structures and comma usage.

    The image below shows how we discussed relationships between parts of speech and their function in our simple sentence lesson. Students learn that adjectives modify nouns and adverbs modify verbs. They also modify other parts of speech, but not in this sentence, so I leave it alone. We can build on it later.

    I admit, even as an English teacher, parts of speech can be tricky. When I get stuck, I discuss it with Renee Krusper, my colleague who helped me design our 5-day bell ringers around our students' needs. Sometimes, I use Stanford University’s sentence tagger, Parts of Speech.Info. Keep in mind that computers are not foolproof, you will want to dig deeper if the tags are questionable.

    Our 10-minute sentence-labeling activity might look like this:

    Me: Label the parts of speech in this sentence. Only label the parts that you absolutely know. No guessing. (two minutes)

    Me: Now, turn to your partner and discuss your answers. (two minutes)

    Me: Who’s ready to share?

    Student 1: I labeled “Jacob” as a noun, because he is a person.

    Student 2: “Mother’s” is a noun, too.

    Student 3: I didn’t label “mother’s” as a noun because I think “mother’s” is an adjective. Yesterday, we said “mother’s” was possessive. It describes “voice” so I think it is an adjective.

    Me: I can see why you would think this, but “mother” is a noun, the person to whom the voice belongs. You are right, it is possessive, telling us who owns the voice. Nouns play different roles in the sentence, but in this case, it explains who owns the voice.

    Me: Did anyone label any verbs in this sentence? (I ask this because it wasn’t coming up in the student discussion, and I want to make sure we bring the discussion to the focus skill, simple sentences).

    Student 4: I labeled “jolted” as a verb. It’s an action.

    Student 5: I think “was” is also a part of the verb because it tells when the action took pace, but I’m not sure, so I didn’t label it.

    Student 6:  You are both right. Scared is the main verb. “Was” is a helping verb. It helps the main verb (scared) by identifying the time the action took place, in the past.

    Me: How does the verb relate to the noun, Francois Jacob?

    Student 7: Francois Jacob is the person who was scared.

    Me: Exactly! It wouldn’t make sense to have an action if you didn’t know who or what was doing it. The person or thing (noun) that is doing the action, is called the subject of the sentence. The action or verb is the predicate part of the sentence. Beware. Not all nouns are subjects. Take a minute to write the subject and predicate of the sentence in the space provided on your handout.

    Simple sentences are the focus. I don’t dig too deep, focusing on the main eight parts of speech. For example, I don’t label “mother’s" as a possessive noun, just a noun. It is important to clarify and direct the discussion toward the vocabulary required to develop a deeper understanding of the focus skill or concept. You might want to consider creating parts of speech bulletin board for quick reference when you introduce the concept.

    Day 3: Grammar Rule

    When we peer review, students need a way to communicate their suggestions to their friends, which is why I want them to understand grammar rules related to the focus skill. I take the constructivist approach and ask students to work in groups to create a grammar rule based on what we learned so far. I clarify that today’s activity will help us to learn how to fix incomplete or fragmented sentences. You may want to provide struggling learners with some guidance: A simple sentence must contain both a __________________ and a __________________.

    Below is what the grammar rule discussions will look like in my mixed-ability groups.

    Student 1: There are two blanks, so there must be two parts of a sentence.

    Student 2: Yesterday, we discussed the subject and predicate.

    Student 3: The subject is who the sentence is about and the verb is the action part of the sentence.

    Student 1: I think a simple sentence is a sentence that contains both a subject and a predicate.

    Me: You got it. A simple sentence requires two ingredients, a subject and a predicate, but it must also complete a thought. Otherwise, the sentence is incomplete.

    Now as a result of building academic vocabulary, when they peer review, they can state that the predicate or subject is missing from their sentence. You can create anchor charts like the Simple Sentence Anchor Chart (PDF) that I created and switch them out as your grammar instruction scaffolds to higher level concepts.

    Day 4: Revise

    The revision activity was added because many of my kids define the revision process as copying over a rough draft, making it neater. I want my students to have fun playing with words and exploring the art of revision, the most important part of writing. This activity supports reading comprehension as they learn how word choices determine the author’s tone or a mood. Depending on my students’ abilities, some young writers might search for synonyms to switch out adjectives and adverbs, or they might add more specific nouns. They can use a thesaurus or dictionary to replace words, which is an important skill for writers. Others might add phrases or clauses. It all depends on their abilities. The best part is that they all are participating and learning.

    Revisions may look like this:

    When we share our sentences our discussion might look like this:

    Me: Reread your sentences. How did revising this sentence change or alter the mood?

    Student 1: Replacing “jostled awake” with “awakened” removed the visual of the mother panicking. The problem doesn’t feel as urgent.

    Student 2: In my sentence, it doesn’t really change it much. Replacing “urgent” with “whispering” conveys the same mood. It shows there is immediate danger because she has to whisper and doesn’t want the enemy to hear her.

    Student 3: Adding more information at the end of my sentence reinforces the immediate danger, intensifies the suspense.

    Me: During the revision process, we learned that we can change words or add information to create imagery (pictures that reading creates in our mind), intensify the mood (the reader’s feelings), or reveals tone (the author feeling on the subject).

    This discussion helps students to better understand that word choice and sentence structure adds a deeper level of meaning to the text. This is a concept that pops up on state tests, yet we don't get to cover it very much because we have larger issues to focus on.

    Day 5: Create

    You may have noticed that the activities increase in complexity throughout the week. The purpose of this activity is to have students apply what they have learned to create their own sentences. This is where I tie back to students using their personal writing in a risk-free environment, like in my grammar journals. It is important to let them practice new skills in their personal writing before academic writing. This allows them to focus on mastering the grammar skill applying it to rigorous, academic writing. Some activities can be simple, like the sentence in this lesson. They can also be longer, such as writing a story highlighting the sentence that mimics the mentor sentence as the student is doing in the image below. Here, more proficient writers embed their sentence in a story, like a story starter.  

    Look at the image below. Notice that I hole-punched the handout on the right, not the left, so that we can use lined paper for longer story writing activities. It also allows us to keep the grammar activities safe in our binders for future reference.

     

    Grading

    Since we engage in a lot of discussions, and my students are encouraged to revise or correct their answers in response to our discussions, I prefer to assess their level of mastery when we transfer the grammar skill to the formal writing assignment based on the text and use this as a risk-free sandbox for playing with grammar.

    If you really feel that you have to grade them you can assign a quick grade as you walk around the room using a 4-point rubric: 4) Mastery, 3) Proficient, 2) Developing, 1) Attempting, and 0) Not Yet. I always list proficiency first, focusing on the positive and demonstrating that I believe in their success.

    I am a reflective teacher, always looking for ways to improve, so I am sure I will be tweaking this as the year progresses. Feel free to join my journey, sharing your successes or struggles. We can help each other to help our students become polished, expert writers.

    Handy List of Printables

    Welcome back to “Mastering Grammar With Mentor Sentences,” a grammar journey that I embarked upon this year. If you have not read "Mastering Grammar With Mentor Sentences, Part 1,” you might want to check that out first.

    In that part, I explain why I started using mentor sentences, walk you through selecting sentences from your classroom text to meet your students’ diverse needs, and describe an activity, Invitation to Notice. These bell ringer activities are based on a Scholastic Scope article, "From War to Freedom" by Kristin Lewis.  

    If you are not a Scholastic Scope subscriber, you can use the Mentor Sentence Template (a customizable Microsoft Word document) or the Mentor Sentence Template (PDF). Simply plug in any mentor sentence from the text that you are reading in the classroom.

    In this post, I'll walk you through four more grammar activities using mentor sentences harvested from our classroom texts.

    If you remember, the 5-day bell ringer activities take about 10 minutes each day and increase in complexity:

    • Day 1: Invitation to Notice
    • Day 2: Labeling the Sentence
    • Day 3: Grammar Rules
    • Day 4: Revise
    • Day 5: Create 

    Below is a "Mastering Grammar With Mentor Sentences" guide, a list of questions to ask, and some misconceptions I may need to clarify on each day.

    Day 2: Label the Sentence

    On day two, my sixth graders label the main parts of speech or the parts of a sentence. As suggested by Jessica Ivey in her blog post “Implementing Mentor Sentences in Upper Grades” (Ideas by Jivey), I only ask them to label the parts of speech that they know — no guessing. This allows me to assess their knowledge or understanding of domain-specific vocabulary. Depending on their abilities, some will label more words than others. At first, it is rough because many of my sixth graders can’t identify or define the parts of speech. With repeated exposure, they develop a better understanding of these academic terms and how they function in a sentence.

    I know there is research suggesting that teaching parts of speech is not an effective way to teach grammar. So why venture here? We need common vocabulary to engage in discussions. How do I explain that a compound sentence has to have a subject and predicate on both sides of the conjunction or joining word if my tweens don’t understand nouns, or realize that not every noun is the subject?

    This is where my frustration takes over as I keep backpedaling to teach domain-specific vocabulary. I don’t discuss every part of speech in the mentor sentence. The students may label everything, but in each discussion I focus on the vocabulary that is essential to the targeted concept.

    For example, when discussing complex sentences, we talk about the similarities and differences between dependent and independent clauses, which may use terms such as subjects and predicates or nouns and verbs. However, the mentor sentence helps us to identify them and draw arrows to demonstrate relationships, thereby, increasing their understanding of sentence structures and comma usage.

    The image below shows how we discussed relationships between parts of speech and their function in our simple sentence lesson. Students learn that adjectives modify nouns and adverbs modify verbs. They also modify other parts of speech, but not in this sentence, so I leave it alone. We can build on it later.

    I admit, even as an English teacher, parts of speech can be tricky. When I get stuck, I discuss it with Renee Krusper, my colleague who helped me design our 5-day bell ringers around our students' needs. Sometimes, I use Stanford University’s sentence tagger, Parts of Speech.Info. Keep in mind that computers are not foolproof, you will want to dig deeper if the tags are questionable.

    Our 10-minute sentence-labeling activity might look like this:

    Me: Label the parts of speech in this sentence. Only label the parts that you absolutely know. No guessing. (two minutes)

    Me: Now, turn to your partner and discuss your answers. (two minutes)

    Me: Who’s ready to share?

    Student 1: I labeled “Jacob” as a noun, because he is a person.

    Student 2: “Mother’s” is a noun, too.

    Student 3: I didn’t label “mother’s” as a noun because I think “mother’s” is an adjective. Yesterday, we said “mother’s” was possessive. It describes “voice” so I think it is an adjective.

    Me: I can see why you would think this, but “mother” is a noun, the person to whom the voice belongs. You are right, it is possessive, telling us who owns the voice. Nouns play different roles in the sentence, but in this case, it explains who owns the voice.

    Me: Did anyone label any verbs in this sentence? (I ask this because it wasn’t coming up in the student discussion, and I want to make sure we bring the discussion to the focus skill, simple sentences).

    Student 4: I labeled “jolted” as a verb. It’s an action.

    Student 5: I think “was” is also a part of the verb because it tells when the action took pace, but I’m not sure, so I didn’t label it.

    Student 6:  You are both right. Scared is the main verb. “Was” is a helping verb. It helps the main verb (scared) by identifying the time the action took place, in the past.

    Me: How does the verb relate to the noun, Francois Jacob?

    Student 7: Francois Jacob is the person who was scared.

    Me: Exactly! It wouldn’t make sense to have an action if you didn’t know who or what was doing it. The person or thing (noun) that is doing the action, is called the subject of the sentence. The action or verb is the predicate part of the sentence. Beware. Not all nouns are subjects. Take a minute to write the subject and predicate of the sentence in the space provided on your handout.

    Simple sentences are the focus. I don’t dig too deep, focusing on the main eight parts of speech. For example, I don’t label “mother’s" as a possessive noun, just a noun. It is important to clarify and direct the discussion toward the vocabulary required to develop a deeper understanding of the focus skill or concept. You might want to consider creating parts of speech bulletin board for quick reference when you introduce the concept.

    Day 3: Grammar Rule

    When we peer review, students need a way to communicate their suggestions to their friends, which is why I want them to understand grammar rules related to the focus skill. I take the constructivist approach and ask students to work in groups to create a grammar rule based on what we learned so far. I clarify that today’s activity will help us to learn how to fix incomplete or fragmented sentences. You may want to provide struggling learners with some guidance: A simple sentence must contain both a __________________ and a __________________.

    Below is what the grammar rule discussions will look like in my mixed-ability groups.

    Student 1: There are two blanks, so there must be two parts of a sentence.

    Student 2: Yesterday, we discussed the subject and predicate.

    Student 3: The subject is who the sentence is about and the verb is the action part of the sentence.

    Student 1: I think a simple sentence is a sentence that contains both a subject and a predicate.

    Me: You got it. A simple sentence requires two ingredients, a subject and a predicate, but it must also complete a thought. Otherwise, the sentence is incomplete.

    Now as a result of building academic vocabulary, when they peer review, they can state that the predicate or subject is missing from their sentence. You can create anchor charts like the Simple Sentence Anchor Chart (PDF) that I created and switch them out as your grammar instruction scaffolds to higher level concepts.

    Day 4: Revise

    The revision activity was added because many of my kids define the revision process as copying over a rough draft, making it neater. I want my students to have fun playing with words and exploring the art of revision, the most important part of writing. This activity supports reading comprehension as they learn how word choices determine the author’s tone or a mood. Depending on my students’ abilities, some young writers might search for synonyms to switch out adjectives and adverbs, or they might add more specific nouns. They can use a thesaurus or dictionary to replace words, which is an important skill for writers. Others might add phrases or clauses. It all depends on their abilities. The best part is that they all are participating and learning.

    Revisions may look like this:

    When we share our sentences our discussion might look like this:

    Me: Reread your sentences. How did revising this sentence change or alter the mood?

    Student 1: Replacing “jostled awake” with “awakened” removed the visual of the mother panicking. The problem doesn’t feel as urgent.

    Student 2: In my sentence, it doesn’t really change it much. Replacing “urgent” with “whispering” conveys the same mood. It shows there is immediate danger because she has to whisper and doesn’t want the enemy to hear her.

    Student 3: Adding more information at the end of my sentence reinforces the immediate danger, intensifies the suspense.

    Me: During the revision process, we learned that we can change words or add information to create imagery (pictures that reading creates in our mind), intensify the mood (the reader’s feelings), or reveals tone (the author feeling on the subject).

    This discussion helps students to better understand that word choice and sentence structure adds a deeper level of meaning to the text. This is a concept that pops up on state tests, yet we don't get to cover it very much because we have larger issues to focus on.

    Day 5: Create

    You may have noticed that the activities increase in complexity throughout the week. The purpose of this activity is to have students apply what they have learned to create their own sentences. This is where I tie back to students using their personal writing in a risk-free environment, like in my grammar journals. It is important to let them practice new skills in their personal writing before academic writing. This allows them to focus on mastering the grammar skill applying it to rigorous, academic writing. Some activities can be simple, like the sentence in this lesson. They can also be longer, such as writing a story highlighting the sentence that mimics the mentor sentence as the student is doing in the image below. Here, more proficient writers embed their sentence in a story, like a story starter.  

    Look at the image below. Notice that I hole-punched the handout on the right, not the left, so that we can use lined paper for longer story writing activities. It also allows us to keep the grammar activities safe in our binders for future reference.

     

    Grading

    Since we engage in a lot of discussions, and my students are encouraged to revise or correct their answers in response to our discussions, I prefer to assess their level of mastery when we transfer the grammar skill to the formal writing assignment based on the text and use this as a risk-free sandbox for playing with grammar.

    If you really feel that you have to grade them you can assign a quick grade as you walk around the room using a 4-point rubric: 4) Mastery, 3) Proficient, 2) Developing, 1) Attempting, and 0) Not Yet. I always list proficiency first, focusing on the positive and demonstrating that I believe in their success.

    I am a reflective teacher, always looking for ways to improve, so I am sure I will be tweaking this as the year progresses. Feel free to join my journey, sharing your successes or struggles. We can help each other to help our students become polished, expert writers.

    Handy List of Printables

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