Speaking in complete sentences (SL.1.6) is a skill that translates into increased academic achievement across disciplines, especially for English Learners and socioeconomically disadvantaged students. A few years ago, every staff member at my school made a joint commitment to have students use complete sentences, and we believe it is one of the factors that improved our students' achievement. It is a practice that is harder to implement than it seems, since in our daily interactions we don't always use complete sentences. In the fast pace of a school day, it is easy to forget to remind children to use a complete sentences, when you are in the middle of a lesson and you don't want to interrupt the flow; or when a yes or no has clarified an issue at the playground; or when a short phrase has served its purpose when you are multitasking. The shift to CCSS has made me pause and recommit to insisting on the use of complete sentences. It enriches the language of my English Learners and improves the vocabulary and grammar of most of my students, who don't have opportunities for conversations with adults that have time and/or rich language skills. It also made me realize that often I am satisfied to accept simple sentences, but that I need to increase the rigor in this area. L.1.1.i specifies the requirement for children to use frequently occurring prepositions. Mastering this standard will help students formulate compound sentences as they go up in grade levels.
I was getting ready to teach a Geometry unit and found a lesson related to location. This seemed a perfect opportunity to teach a parallel lesson on prepositions. The math lesson was focused on vocabulary, and I wanted to expand it to grammar and an introduction to prepositions.
I began by telling the students that prepositions were words that helped us tell others where things are, and I told them that they would find that they already knew some. I put a book on a student's desk and asked them where it was. I pointed out that the word on was a preposition. We did a couple more examples like this one.
I began by posting the prepositions that we would cover in the math lesson; of course, this can be done completely independently of math. Then I put a book in the different positions determined by the list, and had the class repeat the corresponding sentences after me.
Some examples were:
To engage the students in the lesson we played a game of Simon Says. You can see the video in the resource section. This was an opportunity to review the vocabulary.
I find that I can keep my class engaged in a grammar lesson for about 10 minutes. This doesn't lead to mastery of the vocabulary or concept (I wish!), so I sprinkle review during the following days. One way to do so, is to put a picture on the document camera (or project it in any way you have available) and have the class ask and answer questions about the location of objects on it. In the resource section, you can see the one I used (from Envision, our math adoption). The I Spy books are great for this, and I have always found that kids enjoy them.
For independent practice I made a chart showing apples in different locations with respect to trees, and I wrote the prepositions on pieces of sentence strips by it. You can see in the videos how I showed the kids how to use this as an independent center to practice with a partner. My idea was that they could take turns, helping each other as needed.
I also gave them a worksheet from Day-by-Day Math Mats.
I knew I would revisit prepositions in different presentations, so for closure I simply restated the objective for the lesson and reminded them that they could practice them with a partner, just as we had practiced.