Sentence building

In this activity, students ask the question: what is a sentence? Then, they answer it using an interactive smart board sentence generator.


  • Identify sentences and non-sentences.
  • Create some examples of sentences and non-sentences using an interactive smart board sentence generator.

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that today, we will answer the question: what is a sentence?

Younger students often have difficulty distinguishing between complete sentences and long strings of words that are not, in fact, sentences. This lesson walks them through the process of building a sentence step-by-step, focusing on what makes a sentence a sentence.

In the Activity page in the right hand menu, the first slide shows a set of nouns. The nouns can be scrolled up and down using a finger on the smart board. The 'dice' icon will re-order the nouns. All of these nouns (and the additional words and phrases in subsequent slides) have been selected because they occur regularly in our corpus.

Ask the students: 'Is this a complete sentence?' Most students will know that it is not.

The second slide shows the nouns preceded by adjectives. Again, you can scroll through the words or re-order each word list with the 'dice' icon. Let the students enjoy creating some funny and interesting noun phrases this way. Then ask the students: 'Is this a complete sentence?' Again, most students will know that it is not, but some may be unsure.

In the third slide, the phrase becomes longer, now including a determiner. Play with the combinations of words and ask the students if this is a complete sentence. Some may think it is - but it's not!

In the fourth slide, students are presented with a very long string of words that now includes a preposition phrase. Continue to play with the combinations. Now, many students will think that they have a complete sentence. Explain to them that there is still something missing.

In the fifth slide, a verb phrase is introduced. This verb phrase is essential - without it, we don't have a complete sentence. Review with students the meaning of verb

After students understand that slide 5 shows complete sentences with verb phrases, show them slide 6, which is identical to slide 5, but with capital letters and full stops to show that we are viewing complete sentences.

Now, the students can explore which elements can be taken away - that is, which elements are not necessary for a complete sentence. First, in slide 7, the preposition phrases are removed. Ask students if the examples are still sentences. They are! (And because they are, the capital letters and full stops have been retained). Then, in slide 8, the adjectives are removed, and the examples are still complete sentences. Why? Because they retain a Subject (in the form of the noun) and a Predicate (in the form of a verb phrase). Then, in slide 9, the complete sentences are reduced to their core elements.


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