Students need to have many opportunities to order their words in a logical, sequential way that makes sense. In kindergarten, it is hard for our students to put their thoughts together with a string of words that correctly coveys a thought. It is our job to make sure students can tell if a sentence makes sense and/or is in the correct order.
I organize this activity in a way that students cannot get it mixed up! I put all pieces to one sentence in one bag and I either code them by picture or by color on the back. This is crucial for this activity because students need to be able to see which words do or do not belong together. Here, you can see how my easy organization leads to easier understanding for the kids!
Before I allow students do this activity in small groups or independently, I take a few opportunities to model for students how I would order words in a sentence correctly. I first start by stating that the capital letter is at the beginning and the period is at the end. Then, I sound out or read all of the other words. I mix them up on purpose and read them while asking myself, “Does this make sense?” I do this over and over again until I get the words in the correct order- then, I re-read to check. This process shows my students not only what I expect, but also how to self-monitor. At the end of a couple of days of modeling, my students are able to independently practice this activity and do it in a meaningful way.
- Students will take out one bag with a group of words.
(I think it is important for students' success that they only work with one group of words at a time. I don't want them to have to search and sort- the task I want them to complete is to order the words in a sentence-- that is all I am assessing, so that is all I will make them do.)
- Students will put the card that has the word beginning with a capital letter at the beginning... then they will put the card that has the period (or other punctuation) after the word at the end.
(This is an important step because it does two things. 1- Completing this step helps guide students' visual understanding and pushes their thoughts as they read across from beginning to end and left to right. 2- Completing this step reminds students that they MUST pay attention to capital letters and punctuation when reading and/or writing. I think is is good to remind students of the needed aspects of reading and writing as much as possible; especially when it can help them move on in a task.)
- Students will organize the remaining word cards between the first and last words that they already placed. They are encouraged to sound out all unknown words. I love to watch them when possible because it's always a great informal assessment to see a student putting Jack and the Beanstalk sentences in order independently or with a partner.
(It is always good for students to practice reading sight words; it is even better when they have to decode unknown words. This step is good because it encourages students to not only place the words randomly, but to actually read them and then place them. This step really engages students in the content and forces them to pay attention to the word order.)
- Students will check their work- they will re-read their sentence.
(This step is necessary because it helps students practice self-monitoring and self-assessing. Also, it is sometimes a lot easier for students to hear a mistake than it is for them to see it. So, when students are re-reading their word order, they are likely to discover, "Wow, that needs to be moved." In the end, this helps students remember that they always need to do whatever they can to come up with the correct answer.)
- Students will then write their correct sentence on their paper.
(I think this is the most important step of this process. Not only do students have to read words, order them and re-read them, but now they also have to re-write them. It is always good to connect writing to any assignment because it reminds students that writing something down always helps them learn it better. Also, writing in this instance, helps students with many things they may be forgetting! When assessing this, I am able to see if students are truly paying attention to not only word order, but also to other aspects of orthography they may otherwise overlook.)
- Students will repeat this process until all sentences have been ordered and written.
I will check students’ sentences for the following:
Students must write sentences with words in the correct order.
Handwriting must neat.
Sentences must have proper capital letters and punctuation.
When assessing this task, it is really easy for me to see students who are working on their foundational writing skills that they may normally overlook.
For example, some students may always flip the words in their sentences or skip words when writing independently. But, with this task, students will have had to map out words and then re-read them in order before writing them. With all of those steps being followed, students are much more likely to have their words written in the correct order.
Also, I might know that certain students almost always forget the begin with a capital letter; however, with this assignment (where students are copying model sentences), I can be looking for those same students to remember their capital letters consistently. This same assessment tactic applies to punctuation, spacing and handwriting.
Since students are ordering, then copying perfect sentences, I expect their written work to be close to perfect!
I also love to check students' work visually and orally, even without looking at their response sheet. An example of how I informally assess is simply listening while looking at a student checking all of her ordered sentences for me.