Ways & How

how to teach sentence structure

how to teach sentence structure

As language teachers, we often find ourselves groping for ways to teach language structures. More often than not, we don’t pay attention to the structure of the language we speak. So teaching language forms could be a challenging task, especially for novice teachers of the language. Based on a principled approach to language teaching, a teacher can learn how to teach sentence structure with ease and success. The basic requirement for anyone attempting to teach the structure of a language is that he or she is competent in that language and must have adequate knowledge of the rules or system of the language. So be sure to have studied the structures yourself. After all, we cannot teach what we do not know nor give what we do not have. When you are teaching sentence structures, do not teach all of them at once. Start with the basic and most simple structures. You can introduce more complex structures later when your learners have attained a good grasp of the basic structures.

  1. Check if learners can identify subjects and verbs.

    Basic sentence structure requires an understanding of the concepts of subject and verb, which are the primary indispensible parts of a sentence. It would be good to introduce learners to a text that is extracted from an article or story. It doesn’t have to be lengthy but long enough to show sentences from an authentic text. You can talk about the text to make the learning more meaningful. Then you may proceed to ask learners who is being talked about in each sentence.

    Explain what subjects do in sentences. Discuss the positions of subjects in the sentences of the given text. You may then underline the verbs in the sentences. If your students can identify verbs, let them do it. Review them on the many kinds of verbs (linking or be verbs, transitive and intransitive verbs) and their possible combinations to show tense aspects. You might want to ask students to identify the time frame of the sentences in the given text.

  2. Explain all sentences must have subjects and verbs. Without a subject and a verb, a group of words is not a sentence but a phrase or fragment. In imperative sentences or sentences that give commands, the subjects may not be written but are understood to be there. Examples are: Give me a drink; Sit down; and Close the door. The verbs (give, sit, and close) begin the sentences and the subject, “you”, is implied. Also, tell learners that sentences may be inverted in that the subjects may be positioned after the verbs. This is the case in sentences that begin with “there” or with an adverbial phrase. Whatever is the position of the subject in the sentence, the verb agrees with the subject in number.

  3. Introduce the following basic sentence patterns:  Subject-Linking Verb-Complement, Subject-Linking Verb-Predicate Noun, Subject-Transitive Verb-Direct Object and Subject-Transitive Verb-Indirect Object-Direct Object.

  4. Look for several texts from authentic materials. Make sure that the texts show samples of each sentence structure. Again, you may want to discuss the texts to make the learning more meaningful before drawing students’ attention to the sentence structures.

Explain that objects, direct or indirect, are nouns or pronouns which come after transitive verbs - verbs that need an object to complete their meaning. Give them an example and show how the objects answer the question “what kind” or “which one” of the verb. Let students identify the basic sentence structures in the texts. Explain how words are strung together to make up sentences of different structures and patterns. The rest of the structures in sentences may be introduced in the succeeding lesson.


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