Hi all! I think it will be timely to discuss a way for children to improve on the language component of their composition writing, in particular, having variety in sentence structure. Having descriptive phrases and rich vocabulary is important but constructing interesting sentences is vital in achieving a good score for language too.
One way to construct sentences with variety is to use different ways to start a sentence. Here are 5 sentence starters to add variety to your writing.
Ways to start a sentence
1) Start a sentence with a noun(Subject/ Object)
The little boy/ He/ David kissed his mother goodbye quickly before going to school.
Mother was kissed by David before he left for school.
A quick recapitulation on what a Subject and an Object of a sentence are. Subject is the doer of an action while the Object is the receiver of an action. This is the most common way children start their sentence as they will be inclined to list down details of what was done by the characters or done to the characters. What they end up with are numerous sentences beginning with nouns and pronouns. Yawn.
Take a look at your child’s composition. If he/she has sentences which start this way all the time, it is time to read on.
2) Start a sentence with Adverbs
Quickly, David kissed his mother goodbye before going to school.
Tearfully, Jan apologised for her mistake.
Adverbs are words that describe verbs (action words). Examples are adverbs are anxiously, immediately, playfully. As children may find adverbs familiar and easier to grasp, this is a good way to begin injecting variety to your child’s sentences.
3) Start a sentence with an adverbial phrase (time, manner, place)
Time: Before going to school, David kissed his mother goodbye quickly.
Manner: All of a sudden, a child dashed across the road.
Place: In the pouring rain, the boy shivered as he walked home without an umbrella.
Like an adverb, an adverbial phase describes the action. Have your child think about the when, how and where of the sentence and they will find it easier to introduce this sentence structure to their compositions.
4) Start a sentence with a continuous verb phrase (continuous action)
Kissing his mother goodbye quickly, David left for school.
Shivering (from the cold), the boy walked home without an umbrella in the pouring rain.
Realising her mistake, Jan apologised tearfully.
A continuous verb are verbs in the -ing form e.g. Running, singing, clapping. Instead of listing down what the characters are doing plainly, try beginning with the action being done by the character first.
5) Start a sentence with a past participle verb phrase
Shocked by what he saw, James screamed.
Soaked by the rain, the boy shivered as he walked home without an umbrella.
Filled with anger, Mary decided to confront her friend.
A tip for using this way to start a sentence is to think about emotions such as shocked, angered and worried. This not only varies your sentences but also helps to add in descriptions of emotions to your characters.
How can I apply this with my child?
A paragraph like the following is very common for a child who does not have variety in the way he/she begins a sentence:
This paragraph has some interesting vocabulary used but it can definitely be improved with some variety in the way the sentences begin. All the sentences begin with a noun or pronoun. Compare it with the paragraph below that is rewritten using different sentence starters.