Kelli Smith PLEASANT RIDGE ELEMENTARY, KNOXVILLE, TN
Kindergarten ELA : Unit #5 - Daily Foundational Skills Practice : Lesson #4

What Makes a Sentence?

Objective: SWBAT recognize that spoken sentences are represented in written language by specific sequences of words, beginning with a capital letter and ending with a punctuation mark.
Standards: RF.K.1b RF.K.1c L.K.2a L.K.2b
Subject(s): English / Language Arts
60 minutes
1 Why this Lesson? - 1 minutes

Since we want our Kindergarteners to be able to write complete sentences, we have to teach them, explicitly, the characteristics of a complete sentence.  It is our job to teach students that a good sentence needs 3 things: a capital letter, punctuation and to express one complete thought.  This lesson is short but it allows us a time to focus explicitly on sentences and what they need, while also keeping our students engaged and showing them how we always move from left to right!  Also, students are able to talk to me about this topic while engaged in the learning.  After this lesson, there's a perfect chance for students to practice their speaking and listening skills and re-teach each other something, too!  In the end, this lesson takes less than five minutes and really keeps them engaged with information that they need repeated practice with!

Of course we teach our students things like subject, predicate, verbs, adjectives, etc; however, these do not need to be explicitly addressed with daily practice at the beginning of the year.  This lesson is tailored to teach students how to simply form a complete sentence.  I think it is crucial that students understand what makes a complete sentence and how to form one correctly-- before we can really teach them the elements found within a good sentence!

2 Instructional Process - 5 minutes

Prior to this lesson, I will have had students participate in "What Makes a Word" at least three or four times.  That lesson prepares students better for this lesson; students need to know what makes a word before they can know what makes a sentence! 
Once students have had some exposure to letters and words, they can then open their ears and eyes to see what makes sentences!  It is important that students have explicit instruction about sentences if we expect them to be able to write them correctly!  If our students don't know what the characteristics of a sentence are, how can we expect them to write sentences? 
This lesson is designed to explicitly show students the central pieces they need to make a good sentence so they can hear it, and see it and talk about it.  Once students go through this lesson multiple times, they will have a concrete idea of what the characteristics of a sentence are!

It is imperative for students to realize that ALL sentences begin with a capital letters, end with a punctuation mark and express a complete thought.  This lesson explicitly teaches each of those necessities in a brief time period where students can stay engaged while following text from left to right, looking for and working on needed pieces of the sentences and have practice hearing and looking at some emergent text!

For this lesson, I have students seated around me on the carpet where they can see me and the complete sentence practice chart I have made.  I will lead the lesson here, but I will do it based on student feedback.

I will read each piece of written information and students will have to decide:
1- Does it begin with a capital letter?
2- Does it end with punctuation?
3- Does it state a complete thought?
   *It is important here that students really give all of the answers.  I like to hear someone give an answer that shows they have a misconception, and then guide them through clearing up their misconception with the whole group.  Of course, this lesson can be tailored to be strictly whole group and/or individual responses; however, I think it is only to the benefit of mys students to have them say things out loud AND together-- this gets them hearing others so they might re-think their own answers while it also allows them to be less shy while learning!

For this brief, daily practice lesson, we will go through each line of written text and students will tell me whether what they heard me say was a sentence or not. 
Then, to go the extra step (to deepen knowledge and to practice speaking and listening skill), I try to have students explain to me why or why not they think what they heard was a sentence. 
This step is important, as it allows students who understand completely to talk through their thinking, while it also lets students who may not understand listen to their classmates for student-friendly explanations. 
*Sometimes, I may only call on certain students to explain things; then, after we have finished as a whole group, I have students tell each other one thing that they learned or can teach.
Other times (when I have a couple of extra minutes for this mini-lesson), I will allow students to talk their way through every step with a partner!

After we have been through ALL of the lines of written text and we have deciphered which ones were sentences and which ones were not, we review what we covered and then hang our chart up as a reference.  This lesson is short and sweet, but it explicitly teaches students to look for the characteristics of a complete sentence!

Basically, here is the process for each line of text:
We read over a line of text.
We decide if it's a sentence.
   - If it's not a sentence, move on.  If it needs some additional pieces to make it a sentence, add them.
I summarize what we did.

Here is one "What makes a sentence" daily lesson video that shows just what we can accomplish in less than five minutes to help strengthen our foundational skills!

How to get the best bang for your buck with this lesson!
Lesson Planning

This is a simple, five minute daily mini-lesson that really helps hone in on a particular set of standards.  If we want out students to be able to excel and properly use capital letters and punctuation, we need to have explicit instruction with those skills.  Nevertheless, we can really push this lesson into others and take advantage of the quality practice time!
One reason I think this particular type of mini-lesson is good is because it allows us to create a chart that we can USE.  I LOVE a good reference chart! 
With the ones from this lesson, we did many different things:
I hung it up for reference, or to build upon the following day.
I had students use it to practice re-reading emergent sentences
I had students work with it to practice their speaking and listening and justification skills in centers as well!

3 Assessing this Task - 5 minutes

Since this lesson doesn't have student work, I assess my students by listening to their responses.  It can be hard to listen to each student, but I really try to pay attention; especially to those students who I know have difficulties with writing complete sentences.  I also really listen when I call on a particular student to answer something; I want them to answer in a complete sentence as often as possible.

An easy way to assess students' understanding of this lesson, after it has been taught (in different variations) a few times, is to have students write and then see who indeed is following these rules when writing!

4 Extending this Task - 5 minutes

This lesson provides students with the background they need for writing; from this point onward, I have students write a lot more.  I want students to have opportunities to show me that they did learn from this lesson.  When students have written strings of words that aren't actual sentences, I direct them to our reference chart (from this activity) and have them edit their writing.  This process is helpful and it is a great bouncing-board for writing because it provides students with experience with the information AND it shows them a reference to use when they are writing as well.

I can also extend and assess this practice lesson by allowing the students to take the reigns and decide for themselves, with student-led prompting and discussion, which pieces of information are truly good sentences. This takes quite a bit more time, but it lets students really talk through their learning and show me what they know.  That is good because it 1)allows students to work on their speaking and listening skills, and 2)provides students the avenue to show their learning and be held accountable for their skills.  I like to implement this task at least once every three or four times we work on this!

Another way I like to extend this lesson is to provide students with practice in centers!  After we have gone over this lesson four or five times, I feel confident putting similar work in centers because it allows students to continue to talk about complete sentences and get more exposure under their belt to build their skills!