During writing conferences this week, I noticed that several students were still struggling to write complex sentences. It seemed as if many were still writing very basic, simple sentences with a noun, verb, and maybe an adjective. I also noticed that those who were trying to write compound sentences often were doing it incorrectly. So - it was time for a mini-lesson.
I called students to the meeting area and began the short lesson. I first asked if anyone could tell me what a compound word was or give me an example. Hands shot up all around. Several students were able to give me examples and a few were able to tell me that a compound word is “when you put two short words together.” I say, “Yes! You’re right. Today we are going to build on that idea and apply it to our writing. We’re going to learn how to create compound sentences. These sentences are complex and much more interesting to read than simple, short sentences.” I gave them examples of each. “I could write, ‘It is cold outside. I wore my coat.’ Or I could combine these two shorter sentences to make one compound sentence that is a little more interesting to read.
“Just like compound words are created by putting two short words together, compound sentences are created when you put two short sentences together. The big difference here is that in order to combine sentences together, you need a connector. We call these conjunctions.” I point out the anchor chart that lists the definition of a compound sentence and the five conjunctions we will focus on this week. I then explain that you can write a variety of sentences just by changing your connector. For example, using my example sentences and the conjunction “so”, I could create the compound sentence: “It was cold outside, so I wore my coat.” Or I could change the conjunction and the order of my short sentences to create the sentence: “I wore my coat outside, because it was cold outside.” Add in or change an adjective to make your sentence even more appealing: “It was frigid outside, so I wore my heavy, winter coat.”
I asked students if they noticed what else needs to be included when you move from two simple sentences to a compound sentences. It took a few moments, but eventually one was able to point out that I put a comma before each conjunction. Right again! I explained how writers put a comma at the end of the first sentence part just before the conjunction.
I had students practice a few before leaving the meeting area. I gave them one short sentence and they came up with its partner. For example, I said, “I overslept this morning” and had them give me short sentences that would go with it. One student said, “I missed the bus.” Perfect! We then worked together adding in appropriate conjunctions to make these two parts a new compound sentence. We came up with: I overslept this morning so I missed the bus, I missed the bus this morning because I overslept (I pointed out how we rearranged the wording a little bit there), and I overslept this morning and I missed the bus. I then gave them a starter sentence and had them work with their partners to come up with a partner sentence and then turn both into a compound sentence. We spent a few seconds sharing our newly created sentences with the class before leaving the area and starting independent reading.
During today’s reading, students were given the task of locating compound sentences in their independent reading books. When they located one they found interesting, they were to mark it with a sticky note and continue reading. While students work, I conduct small group or independent reading conferences.
At the end of our work time, I asked students to share the compound sentences they found with their reading partners. While they talked, I walked the room looking for excellent examples to share with the class.