Sentence-building game

Does writing time produce a chorus of moans and groans from your children? Then now’s the perfect time to mix it up with a prewriting game!

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.

It moves.

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.”)

Keeping It Simple

With younger children, keep instructions simpler. Here’s an example Julie shared with me. Her family had a lot of fun with this!

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:

It moved.
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!

. . . . .

The Sentence-Building Game is one of the many pre-writing exercises found in WriteShop I and II. Take a look at WriteShop I for your 6th – 10th grader. You’ll love the writing games and brainstorming worksheets that equip and inspire successful writers! 


  • Posted October 22, 2010


    Thank you so much for this excellent idea! I played the game with my boys today and they loved it. My older son will now use his final sentence as a topic sentence for his next composition.

    Your blog is always full of useful suggestions. Keep up the great work!

  • Posted October 22, 2010


    Michelle: How sweet of you to take time to share your boys’ experience with the game … and for the blog kudos. So glad you’re finding helpful tidbits here!

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  • Posted 17 days ago

    Ana Willis

    Oh, my word! This is so much fun!! Love this idea!

    • Posted 17 days ago

      Kim Kautzer

      It’s always a favorite, Ana! And kids of all ages can play it together, which makes it a great family or co-op activity.

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