Make a Sentence

The idea for this post came from one classroom activity I am not a fan of (but quite often I see it being used by teachers in class). The instruction for the activity begins with the words ‘Make a Sentence…’ and the continuation can vary. Some examples I can think of right now include:

Make a Sentence…

… using these words (with a list from the target vocabulary for the unit/topic)

… choosing 3-5 words from the word list in a course book (the number may vary)

… using the Present Progressive Tense (the grammar point may vary)

… to make another go in a board game (the game may vary — tic-tac toe, hangman, etc.)

… using at least 2 adjectives from the list (the part of speech may vary)

… to continue/complete a story your partner started (orally or in writing)

…(can you make the list longer?)

I looked at the activities above and made another list of what they all (might) have in common:

  • each activity asks students to come up with their own sentences (even though some scaffolding or support is provided), as opposed to activities where all the words are given (in the wrong order, with a mistake, etc.)

  • there is no context for the sentences provided

  • no communicative purpose, or reason to make that sentence (only ‘classroom’ use, so to say)

  • the form is more important than meaning (because we have never specified what or who the sentences need to be about; also, because the instruction itself focuses on a form of a sentence rather than communication or meaning — we clearly focus on grammar more than anything else)

  • (do you notice anything else?)

My next thinking step was to brainstorm some variations to make the same activities more meaningful/purposeful:

  • make a true sentence about yourself (using certain words, or grammar structures, etc.)

  • make a true sentence about someone else in the room (peers, teacher), or about something in the room/school, etc.

  • make two sentences about yourself – one true, one false – and let the others guess which is which

  • make a sentence as if said or written by a celebrity (insert the name(s) the learners know)

  • make a sentence as if said or written by a character from the text the students were reading

  • (again, can you make this list longer?)

Note: we can use various patters/techniques for those activities, such as ‘think-pair-share’, or race/competition, or running/shouting dictation, or mingle/cocktail sharing, or a board game, etc.

Can you make a sentence about this picture?

Can you make a sentence about this picture?

Some Other Ideas (even more communicative/meaningful/purposeful, etc.)

write your own bio in 1-2 sentences

choose a peer and create a bio for him/her (in 1-2 sentences)

create a mission statement for your own company (1 sentence)

write a tagline for your own/your peer’s private blog

what is your sentence of the day/week/month/school term/year?

choose a sentence from a fiction text and learn it by heart

‘distill your life into a single sentence (what it’s about, why you’re here)’ — and video yourself, as suggested by Dan Pink here

very short stories‘ (it does not even have to be a sentence to be a meaningful piece of writing!) Thank you Ljiljana Havran for sharing this idea in the post earlier this year.

Final questions and thoughts – please share your ideas in the comments

  1. What (else) do you do with sentences in your lessons?

  2. Is there any other useful resource you use (with students or teachers) that encourages creativity with sentence structure?

  3. Have you already read or written a post on a similar topic? Please add a link!

Thank you for reading! 🙂

this post was written by Zhenya

5 thoughts on “Make a Sentence

  1. ‘Make a sentence so I understand clearly.’

    ‘Make a sentence to be polite.’

    ‘Make a sentence so the conversation doesn’t end.’

    These are just off the top of my head.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for adding the ideas Marc – all three are encouraging communication/conversation, and real-life applicable. I like how adding the ‘why’ changes the direction and purpose for students to do the task. Zhenya

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi Zhenya/PTEC,

    I really like all your suggestions for personalized output but why not make it more sort of input/output. You ask your Ss to make a sentence using a particular word, but they first have to find the most frequent collocates of that word. For example, you’ve got the word *happy*. Your students go to Flax (http://flax.nzdl.org/greenstone3/flax?a=fp&sa=collAbout&c=collocations&if=flax) to find out that the most common nominal collocate is *ending*. Your Ss then make true sentences about themselves using *happy ending*.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Hana

      I like the idea of mini-research Ss could make before creating their own sentence – indeed, using a (frequently used) collocation makes the sentence even more meaningful, for those who make it and for those who listen. ‘Yes’ to the idea of input + output!

      Thank you for the comment very much – learning from you!


  4. Pingback: Is it really useful? | Wednesday Seminars

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