A Common Core standard that can easily get overlooked is the one for compound sentences. But expanding simple sentences is truly one of those “useful in real life” skills that students really do need. Otherwise, you (and their subsequent teachers) will be seeing a lot of writing that resembles something like this:
It was cold. I wore a coat.
Many kids are prone to write very short, simple sentences that could easily be combined into compound ones with details, such as:
It was cold outside, so I wore a winter coat.
For the sake of improving your students’ writing, which will carry over into all subject areas, please don’t sweep this 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade standard under the rug! Here they are, for your quick reference:
First Grade: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.1.1.J
Produce and expand complete simple and compound declarative, interrogative, imperative, and exclamatory sentences in response to prompts.
Second Grade: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.2.1.F
Produce, expand, and rearrange complete simple and compound sentences
Third Grade: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.3.1.I
Produce simple, compound, and complex sentences.
I spent a good portion of the beginning of the school year focusing on teaching the kids how to write simple complete sentences that have a subject, predicate, capital, and period (if you’re in need of some ideas for engaging lessons and activities to teach this, check this out). After setting that foundation, it was time to move on to writing BETTER sentences.
I wanted my students to understand that a compound sentence is two short, simple sentences that are linked together by a comma and a conjunction (most commonly: and, but, or, so). I even went a little old school and showed them the “Conjunction Junction, What’s Your Function?” song from School House Rock. If watching that as a kid still helped me remember what a conjunction is over 25 years later, there’s definitely something to be said for those catchy songs!
Since this is a skill I was teaching during the winter, I also created an anchor chart themed for this time of year:
Full disclosure: I am NOT an artist or a hand lettering master. I created this visual on the computer with clipart and text, and then projected it onto my white board. I centered chart paper with the image, and traced it. One of those easy ways to cheat for those of us who are challenged in the drawing department! I have included the template I used with the rest of my compound sentences resource, in case you’re interested in doing the same.
If you are shorter on time, here are some easy alternatives for how you could use this template:
-Get it enlarged to poster size at a print shop
-Just display it during your compound sentences lessons on your projector and call it a day!
-Print it on regular copy paper and display it under a document camera during your lessons
As I introduced this anchor chart to the kids, we practiced writing short, simple sentences underneath the stick arms of the snowman. We would read each sentence, and try “sticking them together” with each one of the different conjunctions in the middle. The kids would vote on which one sounded the best and made the most sense, and we’d circle that conjunction on the middle of the snowman. Then, they used their white boards to write down the new compound sentence we had created together.
After practicing, the kids were excited to get to make their own snowman craft that looked like the one on the poster. Here was my sample:
Each student was given two simple sentences on stick arms (I also have a template with blank stick arms if you would rather have your students come up with their own simple sentences to write). The kids then combined those to create their own compound sentence. They circled the conjunction that made the most sense to join the two sentences together, and wrote their new sentence on the bottom part of the snowman.
This same snowman template can also double as a literacy center. Simply print, cut, and laminate, and students can try putting different combinations of stick arms on the snowman to create new compound sentences. They can either write on/wipe off the sentences they create with white board marker on the bottom part of the snowman, or they can write them down on answer recording sheets (shown in the last picture of this post).
For additional practice, my class also did a Write the Room activity. I taped winter-themed cards similar to these ones all around the classroom:
The kids put an answer recording sheet on their clipboards (this is the same sheet that could also be used for the snowman literacy center described earlier), and took it with them around the room as they searched for the cards. When they found a card, they read the 2 sentences on it and combined them to create a new compound sentence.
They wrote it down in the box with the corresponding number on the card:
These cards could also be used for a Scoot activity (have kids rotate to each numbered card when you say, “Scoot”) or as a traditional literacy center where students work independently at their seats. The cards and answer sheets can be found right here in my shop or on TPT, and they are included with the anchor chart template and snowman craft/literacy center that I shared above.
Since doing these activities, I’ve had a few instances where students show me pages from books they’re reading, saying, “Look, Mrs. Olsen, I found a compound sentence!” I’ve also been pleased to see the kids attempting more compound sentences in their own writing (which in my opinion, is the ultimate goal in all of this)! This brings me to end with a compound sentence of my own:
Take the time this winter to teach compound sentences in a fun way, SO students can be on their way to becoming better writers!