Tips for Recognizing Base Sentences to Teach Sentence Openers


Sentence openers. Non-essential information. Dress up openers. Introductory material. Or my personal definition: “A word or group of words that is put at the beginning of a REAL (complete sentence) to add more detail, different sentence rhythm, interest, and variety.”

Regardless of what you call them, they can be tricky to teach for sure. And the biggest obstacle I have seen to teaching them is the simple problem of students not knowing whether a sentence is a real sentence to begin with. Students will never get a good handle on sentence openers (also called introductory material or non-essential information at the beginning of a sentence) UNTIL they have a handle on what a sentence contains.


Five Reasons Why Character Ink Writing Books* Work!

5 Reasons Why Character Ink Writing Books Work!

1. They use my Directed Writing Approach!

In my Directed Writing Approach, every detail of every project is laid out for your student. None of my writing projects are “writing ideas” or “writing prompts.” Every writing assignment contains step-by-step instructions with much hand-holding along the way. The student is “directed” in how to write and what to write at all times—from brainstorming to research to outlining to rough draft and finally to revising.


Why Learn (or Teach!) Prepositions


Why Learn (or Teach!) Prepositions


“Prepositions show position!”

That is where I start. The very basics. Catchy. Easy to recite. Simple to remember.

From there, we branch out to the explanation: Prepositions show position of one thing to something else.

Of course, prepositions show time, space, and direction (among other things) of one thing to another thing. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.



5 Tips for Past vs. Passed From Language Lady

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Slideshow: 5 Tips for Past vs. Passed From Language Lady



Pass Is the Verb

The first thing I teach my students is that PASS is the verb. It is the current tense. We do not say Today I PAST the test. PASS/PASSED is the verb.

To cement this further, I ask them what would happen if we added the past tense suffix ED to the non-verb PAST. I love doing this because they look at each other and try to figure it out aloud: PASS/TED? Then I have them write PAST on their paper and add ED to it. In unison, they say PAY/STED (pasted)! This helps them really think about the fact that PAST is not the verb! PAST with ED has nothing to do with PASSING–it has to do with PASTING, as in gluing!



Focus on PAST as a Preposition First

I like to break down and “play with” the word PAST first. Past can be one of three parts of speech (at least). Past is a preposition when it has an object following it: PAST the barn. PAST the house. PAST the school. 

I remind them of their Preposition Practice Pal and/or Preposition Check Sentences: Birdie flew PAST the tube or The angel flew PAST the cloud. Yep. PAST is a preposition. We practice with PAST as a preposition with many objects–and if I feel they are “getting it,” I will also have them highlight the verbs in the “past as a preposition” sentence. This helps them see that past is a preposition, and there is already a verb in that sentence. (More on this later….I don’t do too much of this yet!)



Focus on PAST as Other Parts of Speech for Older Students

If the students are well-versed in prepositions with me, they are also well-versed in the fact that prepositions can also be other parts of speech. (We talk about this ALL the time, beginning with the preposition TO also used as part of an infinitive phrase: to run, to be, etc.) So they are used to my talks of “prepositions can also be….”! So we delve into two of the other things that the word PAST can often be: adverbs and adjectives. 

PAST is an adverb when it tells WHERE you went: We drove PAST. We just walked right PAST. (Some would argue that these are prepositions with their objects missing!) More importantly, however, PAST is an adjective that tells after a time or before and describes a noun: half PAST twelve; it is PAST noon; those are PAST memories. (Of course, PAST can be a noun when used in place of the word history or distance, but since it is usually a noun that is the object of a preposition {in the PAST; don’t dwell on the PAST}, I don’t bring this up—first PAST is a preposition, then it’s an object of a preposition????–Stop the madness! Poor kids!) 



Use Structural Analysis When It Works

I like to give students as many tricks, tips, mnemonics, rhymes, jingles, and more for learning as I possibly can! And I like to use as many DIFFERENT ones as possible since one trick (recitation, for example) might work wonderfully for this student but not for another. Visual kids might not HEAR the difference between the base verb PASS and the word PAST (even without the ED added onto the PASS). However, that same visual student might do really well with structural analysis–analyzing the structure of words (and the visual/kinesthetic learner might learn really well by analyzing and highlighting or “coding” in some way). 

Thus, I like to point out that PAST ends with a T….. and THE begins with a T. Then I write on my board (or have them highlight it in their lesson where it is written): pasT The barn; pasT The school; pasT The park, etc. This further cements the fact that past is the preposition, not the verb. (We also place parentheses around all prepositional phrases when we “dissect” sentences, so I will have them do this as well.)



Go Deeper With Older Students

For older kids, I give a dozen or more examples of all of the parts of speech that PAST can be–again pointing out that it is never PASS in these instances since PASS is a verb. I also have them practice writing examples of each instance of using PAST.
    a. Preposition: They drove PAST the gate
    b. Adjective: He is the PAST president. 
    c. Adverb: He flew PAST. 
    d. Noun: Let’s leave that in the PAST. 

Older students can also grasp the concept that if there is another MOVEMENT verb in the sentence (and it’s not a compound verb), you want the word PAST with it: We DROVE past the park. However, if there is not another movement verb in the sentence, you want the VERB PASSED: We PASSED the park.

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