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3 Engaging Activities For Teaching Children To Write Complex Sentences

Complex sentences… They’re easy when you know how.

Whether the root cause is lack of understanding, or simply lack of effort (why spend more time writing a sentence when you could be staring at the oversized hairbow of the child sat in front?), encouraging children to write complex sentences can be a challenge.

Simple sentences are simple by nature. Consisting of only one clause and expressing a complete thought, a simple sentence such as ‘I don’t like my socks’ doesn’t offer much scope for creativity, or expressing ideas on paper. 

Encouraging children to include at least one independent clause – ‘I don’t like my socks because they have a hole in the toe’ – opens up a whole new world of writing.

With these 3 engaging activities, the children in your class will be connecting with the complex in no time.


1. Sandwich Sentences 

As with many tasks, extending a sentence is easier when you make it visual – and seeing as lunchtime has universal classroom appeal, this activity is a fun place tocartoon sandwich slice start.

The concept is that, much like a sandwich, a complex sentence requires a start and end (the bread) and an extra bit in the middle (the filling). 

Try giving the class a picture of a sandwich to write their sentences on, if it makes things easier. 

For extra help, you could also provide the ‘bread’ of the sentence yourself, and ask the children to only provide the ‘filling’ – ‘I went to the zoo ________________ because it’s fun’, for example.

Bonus points for any ‘extra’ fillings to make the sandwich tastier – ‘I went to the zoo with my sister and roared at a lion, because it’s fun!’. 


2. The Five Ws 

Cartoon Green Witch Frowning, with purple hat and dress, holding a broomstick cartoon sea, big wave cartoon green worm coming out the ground smiling cartoon windows open looking outside cartoon under the sea whale smiling happy

The five Ws are ‘Who? What? When? Where? Why?’ and are ideal for helping children to remember how a sentence can be stretched. For example:

‘Who?’ My little dog.

‘Is doing what?’ My little dog eats biscuits.

‘When?’ At lunchtime, my little dog eats biscuits.

‘Where?’ At lunchtime, my little dog eats biscuits in the kitchen.

‘Why?’ At lunchtime, my little dog eats biscuits in the kitchen, because they’re yummy!

The Five Ws can be turned into a memory game, with five participants. Each can represent one of the W’s (perhaps by holding a piece of card with the word written on, if it’ll help to remind them of their place).

One child is the ‘Who?’ and chooses the subject of the sentence. Another child is the ‘What?’ and adds the action to the sentence. Eventually the ‘Why?’ will need to remember the four parts of the sentence which preceded, and add their ending. 

You’ll get some laughs, with plenty of memorable ideas for future literacy tasks.


3. I Like It!

A bit of controlled silliness can save the day, especially when it’s underlined by a valuable lesson.cartoon strawberry ice cream with sprinkles and flake

You can turn complex sentences on their head with this fun game for the whole class. Start off by asking the children to write a description of something they like, and why. For example, ‘I like eating ice cream, because it makes my tongue cold!’.

The sentences are then cut in half, and put in two mystery boxes – a ‘what’ box and a ‘why’ box.

Each child can pick a ‘what’ and ‘why’ at random from the boxes, put them together and… hilarity ensues.

This can develop into a game of complex sentence bingo, with children reading both halves aloud and seeing if another child in the class has a half which would help the sentence make better sense. 

As a final twist to the task, children can transcribe the silly sentence that they picked, and write out some alternative sentence starters and endings of their own choosing.


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