Does writing time produce a chorus of moans and groans from your children and teens? Then now’s the perfect time to mix it up with a prewriting game to help your kids write stronger sentences.
Prewriting exercises provide great writing warm-up opportunities for children (and adults) of all ages. They can inspire ideas, spark creativity, and stimulate vocabulary.
Here’s a fun sentence-building game that also reinforces parts of speech. All you need are paper, colored pencils, and a pencil or pen. Before you know it, your children’s sentences will not only grow longer, but they’ll be much more interesting.
Help Tweens and Teens Write Stronger Sentences
- Have players write “It moves” on a sheet of paper, placing a period at the end.
- Say: Change the pronoun to a concrete noun (add an article if necessary). Underline the concrete noun in red. (“The horse moves.”)
- Say: Change the verb to past tense. Underline the new verb form in green. (“The horse moved.”)
- Say: Add an “-ly” adverb that tells “how .” Circle the adverb in yellow. (“The horse moved gracefully.)
- Say: Add an adjective. Circle the adjective in pink. (“The agile horse moved gracefully.”)
- Say: Start the sentence with a preposition that tells “where.” Underline the preposition in orange. (“Over the hurdle, the agile horse moved gracefully.”)
- Say: Add another adjective. Circle the adjective in pink. (“Over the low hurdle, the agile horse moved gracefully.”)
- Say: Make all your nouns more concrete. Circle concrete nouns in blue. (“Over the low fence, the agile Lipizzaner moved gracefully.”)
- Say: Make the verb more concrete. Underline the verb in purple. (“Over the low fence, the agile Lipizzaner jumped gracefully.”)
- Say: Use the thesaurus to find a concrete word for a vague word. Circle your new concrete word in yellow. (“Over the low fence, the agile Lipizzaner vaulted gracefully.”)
- Say: Change your sentence structure to begin with a participle (add necessary words/phrases so it makes sense.) Circle the participle in brown. (“Vaulting gracefully over the low fence, the agile Lipizzaner took the lead.”)
Make it practical.
To apply this activity to real writing, use it to help your kids turn weak or awkward sentences into longer, stronger ones. When you come across a dull or poorly written sentence in one of their stories or reports:
- Show them how to reduce it to the most basic subject + predicate (or noun + verb).
- Play the sentence-building game until they’ve rebuilt a stronger sentence, one step at a time.
Try these tips.
- Many of the steps can be rearranged and done in a different order to achieve different results.
- Step 11 offers just one example of how to lengthen a sentence by starting it with a participle. Of course, you wouldn’t want your kids to start every sentence this way, so mix it up with different sentence starters, or skip this step altogether.
Keep It Simple with Younger Children
Younger kids can learn to write stronger sentences, too. Here’s an example Julie shared with me. By keeping instructions simpler, her whole family could participate—and have a lot of fun!
Decided to use one of your “games” this morning as we got started with school. (I had to stop my husband from playing so the kids would have a turn!) We used “It moved.” Here’s what we ended up with:
The caterpillar moved.
The caterpillar danced.
The tiny caterpillar danced.
The tiny purple caterpillar danced.
The tiny purple caterpillar danced in Chicago.
The tiny purple caterpillar disco danced in Chicago!
Ready to try this fun activity with your children today? I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at their renewed interest in writing!
This Sentence-Building Game is just one of many pre-writing exercises found in WriteShop I and II for tweens and teens.
WriteShop Primary (K-3rd) and WriteShop Junior (3rd-6th) also have writing games and brainstorming worksheets that equip and inspire successful writers!