A sentence expresses a complete thought, but what if a complete thought is made by attaching strings of ideas using "and?" It's a run-on. Beginning writers often have struggle with this abstract concept. Here is a one lesson strategy to eliminate run-ons using "and."
Initial Lesson: Bridges
1. Teach Vocabulary Word Bridge (2 minutes): Bring pictures of bridges and discuss the purpose of a bridge (i.e. to connect pieces of land or islands). What would happen if there were lots of small islands connected with bridges? How would it feel to go across so many bridges?
2. Teach AND is a Bridge (2 minutes): Show the word "and" inside a bridge shape. Teach the word "and" is a bridge. "And" connects ideas.
3. Teach the General Rules (2 minutes):
- "And" can only be used once in a sentence to connect big ideas
- "And" can be used two times in a sentence when making a list of things
- Just like too many bridges, too many "ands" make a sentence hard to follow
4. Practice Combining Simple Sentences (12 minutes) Provide students with a variety of 2-3 sentences. Have students practice combining the sentences using the word "and."
For example, look at the sentences below:
- The cake tastes good. I ate the cake
- I went running. I went swimming.
- My friend likes to swim. My friend likes to run. My friends likes to play.
How can students combine these sentences in different ways? At this point, which combined sentence is "better" is not important. The goal is for students to see how "and" can function in a sentence.
Here are some sample ways to combine the sentences from above:
- The cake tastes good, and I ate the cake. The cake tastes good, and I ate it.
- I went running, and I went swimming. I went running and swimming.
- My friend likes to swim, run, and play. My friend likes to swim, my friend likes to run, and my friend likes to play.
5. Practice Correcting Sample Sentences (12 minutes)
The next step is for students to correct run-on sentences. The teacher should create a list with some run-on sentences and some correct sentences. The students should go through the list, identify the run-ons, and fix them. At this point, it is not important to focus on whether or not sentences combine redundant information (e.g. I like to run, and I like to read.) Teach this in a follow up lesson.
Follow up Lesson: Find Mistakes in Papers
1. Eliminate Redundant Information
Once students understand the basic idea of combining with "and," they will often need additional information on eliminating extraneous information. For example, "I like to run, and I like to play" is technically correct. However, since information is repeated twice, it is a wordy sentence. Teachers can cue students to eliminate redundant information by lining up the sentences and underlining the redundant information.
I like to run
and I like to read
Find the words that is the same. Underline them. Make this sentence shorter without the underlined words.
2. Edit Peer Work
Once students can identify run-ons and fix them in structured practice, students can become "editors" for their peers. An entire lesson can be devoted to editing peers work just for run-ons.
For the student who struggles with oral language, these ideas may still be hard to grasp. Here are some multi-sensory re-teaching ideas.
1. Practice Creating Simple Sentences on Notecards
Write a variety of nouns with articles, verbs (with or without infinitives) and prepositional phrases on note cards. Then, have students pick one of each card and create a simple sentence on a new notecard (e.g. the dog likes to run in the park.)
2. Line Up Sentence Cards and Draw Bridges
Have the student pull two simple sentence note cards and practicing combining them. The teacher can also create a notecard with the word bridge "and" and another note card with a comma. This will help the student visualize the function of these parts of speech. It will look like this:
Extension Lesson to Fix Errors in Grammatical Form
Another common mistake with combining information using "and" is that students do not maintain the same grammatical form. For example, "I like to run, read, and playing soccer" is grammatically incorrect because "to run, to read" and "playing soccer" do not match in form. This error can be corrected by having students dissect combined sentences into their individual kernel sentences (or parts), then line up the sentences and look to see if the combined parts look the same.
For example, look at the sentences below:
- I like to run.
- I like to read.
- I like playing soccer.
In order to combine elements, each sentence must be in same grammatical form. This most commonly means that you can not combine parts starting with a preposition with parts that do not start with a preposition.
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Saddler, Bruce; Preschern, Jennifer. " Improving Sentence Writing Ability Through Sentence-Combining Practice." Teaching Exceptional Children, 2007.