Posts Tagged ‘Dr. Seuss’

A Lesson Plan on Complex Sentences

July 14, 2013

zzzsubordinators

#1. Read the following paragraph to your students:

This morning I woke up. The time was 7:30 a.m. I went to the bathroom. I took a shower. I shaved. I brushed my teeth. Max barked at me. I took him for a walk. It was a glorious day. He was happy. I was happy. I felt famished. We both had breakfast. I went to work.

#2. Ask students how they liked your paragraph. They will probably tell you that it sounded “boring,” “weird,” “choppy,” and/or “monotonous.”

#3. Ask them why it sounds “boring,” “weird,” “choppy,” and/or “monotonous.” Someone will say because the sentences are too short. Or, if you have already taught this lesson, someone will say that they are all simple sentences. Bingo. Paste a metaphorical gold star on that student’s forehead.

#4. Explain: Simple sentences are elegent and beautiful, and you wouldn’t want to live in a world without them. They are great for headlines, epigrammatic song lyrics, and those occasions when you want to make a point cogently and directly. But a story or an essay made up entirely of simple sentences is apt to be “boring,” “weird,” “choppy,” and/or “monotonous.” (There are some exceptions to this observation, notably books by Dr. Seuss and James Elroy). Fortunately, there are various sentence patterns which, along with strategically-placed simple sentences, will give your writing rhythm and flair. Today we will be entering the wonderful world of complex sentences.

#5. Explain: A complex sentence contains two clauses: a main clause and a subordinate clause. It’s easy to spot the subordinate clause because it begins with a subordinator.

#6. Provide students with this list of subordinators.

while, after, though, because, as soon as, wherever, when, before, as,
so that, unless, since, although, if, until, even though, whether

#7. Explain: If anyone ever presents you with a complex sentence and asks you to identify the subordinate clause, you can say, “That’s easy; it’s the one that begins with a subordinator.”

(One of the most common mistakes my students make is putting a comma in front of the subordinator. A complex sentence only requires a comma when the first clause is subordinate.)

#8. Provide students with these pairs of correctly-punctuated complex sentences. (If you love trees as much as I do, you can put them on the same piece of paper as the subordinators. Or, if you are a tree-worshipping Druid, you can post the information on Blackboard or some other Cloudy space.)

If I were a rich man, I wouldn’t be here.
I wouldn’t be here if I were a rich man.

I did not pass the Algebra exam even though I studied for over twelve minutes.
Even though I studied for over twelve minutes, I did not pass the Algebra exam.

Because you have a pool, you can be my friend.
You can be my friend because you have a pool.

#9. Activity
a) Group students into threes.
b) Number each group.
c) Instruct each group to create a complex sentence test with six problems like the two examples below.
d) Examine each test.
e) Have groups swap tests and answer each other’s tests on a single sheet of paper. (Students should not write on tests.)
f) When finished, the students should check their answers. (If they have any arguments with the answer key, they should not take matters into their own hands; they should call the teacher over.)
g) Continue to swap tests until every group has taken every test.
h) Students hand in all tests and answer sheets.

Examples Below

Create six problems. Place key on the back.

1.
___a. If you love me you will take out the trash.
___b. If you love me, you will take out the trash.
2.
___a I love you because you buy me things.
___b. I love you, because you buy me things.

Key
1.b
2.a

Coming up: Spectacular lessons on compound sentences and conjunctive adverbs.

Richard W. Bray