Guidance on what NOT to do when teaching at the sentence-level

Teaching students to construct coherent and meaningful sentences is essential if we want them to convey their ideas happily and successfully (Young & Ferguson 2022). Sadly, teaching at the sentence-level is too often overlooked or neglected.

In our previous blog post, we shared guidance on how to teach at the sentence-level efficiently and effectively. In this article, we will share what you probably shouldn’t do when thinking about teaching at the sentence-level.

⚠️ Avoid overloading

Don’t overwhelm with too much information about sentence structure all at once. Keep instruction & explanation elegant and explicit. We recommend following the principles of SRSD instruction. You can find our more here.

⚠️ Don’t rush children’s development

Remember, young writers are still developing their oral language, encoding and fine motor skills, so be patient & develop ALL aspects of writing fluency slowly but concurrently. You can find out more about developing fluency in writing here.

⚠️ Avoid DRILLING for terminology

Refrain from drilling complex grammar terminology. Instead, focus on practical and functional aspects of sentence structure, such as capitalisation & punctuation. You can read more about this here and here.

⚠️ Don’t stifle children’s initiative

Avoid stifling creativity and experimentation by insisting on rigid sentence structures. Encourage creative expression – even if it means sentences are INITIALLY less conventional.

⚠️ Avoid overcorrecting

While correctness is important, don’t make it the sole focus. Encourage students to express themselves happily. Correctness comes gradually as we mature as writers. Children have fragile & developing writer-identities and egos. Don’t overcorrect every error in early sentence writing. Prioritise positive reinforcement over constant correction to maintain a positive attitude towards writing. Remember, a good writing lesson is one where the writer wants to write again tomorrow.

⚠️ Don’t skip idea generation & planning activities

Don’t skip pre-writing activities in your eagerness to have students write sentences. Children should learn the complete writer’s process. For more information and resources for teaching idea generation and planning, follow these two links [LINK] and [LINK].

⚠️ Avoid developmentally inappropriate expectations

Recognise that young learners are just beginning to understand the concept of sentences, and their writing will reflect this stage of development. Again, see our advice on developing writing fluency.

Remember that teaching writing to children is about fostering a positive attitude towards being a writer and building fluency. It’s a developmental process, and the goal is to gradually guide them toward more advanced writing skills as they grow.

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