What is sentence level?
Teachers focus on three areas in literacy: word level work, sentence level work and text level work.
Word level relates to the spelling of individual words.
Sentence level relates to grammar, content and punctuation.
Text level relates to the structuring of a text as a whole, for example: writing a beginning, a middle and an end for a story, using paragraphs, remembering an introduction for a report, etc.
Sentence level work in the primary classroom
Sentence level work could involve the following in Reception, KS1 and KS2:
- Reminding children to use capitals at the start of their sentences and full stops at the end. For this, children need to understand what a sentence is (a grammatical unit made up of one or more words). Lots of practice paying attention to pausing at the full stop when you're reading together at home can help with this.
- Encouraging children to think about where question marks and exclamation marks should go. It is important to discuss with them what these forms of punctuation are for and point them out when reading.
- Showing children how commas are often used to split up clauses in a sentence.
- Modelling correct use of speech punctuation.
- Helping them understand how to make nouns and verbs agree (for example, if a child has written: He take the bucket and spade, this would need to be corrected to: He takes the bucket and spade).
- Modelling making a sentence more interesting by adding adjectives to a noun, or adding adverbs to a verb.
- Showing children how two simple sentences can be joined together using a connective to make a complex sentence. For example: The monster roared loudly. It was hungry. could be changed to: The monster roared loudly because it was hungry.
Sentence level work can be done as a stand-alone activity, for example: teachers may give children worksheets on connectives, punctuation or powerful verbs.
It is also often taught as part of the main literacy teaching of a text; when modelling or editing a piece of writing, a teacher will pay particular attention to sentence level work. Modelling good sentences on the board is crucial for children to be able to learn how to form their own sentences. Reading a range of texts is also very important in terms of getting used to how sentences are structured.
The Eberly tutors have identified these sites as ones that are personally useful to them. In the annotation that follows each site, a tutor explains that benefits of the site. While the Eberly tutors hope you find these sites useful, we encourage you to come and visit us for a face-to-face session in the Writing Center.
Active vs. Passive Voice- (Purdue OWL)
Usually, effective writing uses the active voice and dodges the passive. However, particular situations are awkward or incorrect when expressed in the active voice. This article will explain the difference between active and passive voice and detail when to use each. It will also review how to convert passive sentences into active ones. E.S.
Active vs. Passive Voice (Towson University)
Are you writing your paper or is your paper being written by you? That last sentence contained both the active and passive voice (respectively). Do you want your paper to be active? Passive? Both? If you do not know the intricacies of using these forms of voice, or you just want to sharpen your active/passive knowledge, check out this site for a clear and simple explanation of the subject. J.W.
Dangling Modifiers and How to Correct Them (Purdue University)
When a word or a phrase describes a nonexistent subject, it forms a dangerously "dangling" modifier. Note the first part of the sentence: "Having finished his homework, the TV was turned on by Jack." Now this sentence literally means that the TV, not Jack, has finished the homework. Such a mistake is dangerous because writers are often insensitive to it. This site extensively discusses the problem of dangling modifiers and provides abundant examples to help you revise them. X.Z.
Good v Well (Grammar Girl)
How are you? Is the answer "good" or "well"? Is anyone actually sure of the correct answer to one of the most oft-asked questions in our daily lives? N.C.
Passive Voice (University of North Carolina)
You may have learned that passive voice is bad, but did you know that there are certain instances when passive voice can be appropriate, or even the best choice for your paper? The University of North Carolina busts several myths about the passive voice, defines it in clear terms, and then provides situations when passive voice is or is not acceptable. The article then suggests a trick to determine when to use passive or active voice. M.N.
Passive Voice: When to Use It and When to Avoid It (University of Toronto)
Passive voice is a sentence construction in which the object being acted on comes before the subject or actor, who is added at the end. ("The pizza is being eaten by zombies.") You may have learned that it is an error in academic writing, but, in fact, there are instances when it is preferred. This resource discusses the problems with passive voice and how to identify it, but also demonstrates when it is acceptable. J.D.
Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement (D'Youville College)
Pronoun-antecedent agreement can be a little tricky, especially since many people aren't quite sure what the word "antecedent" means. To answer that question, they are nouns to which a pronoun refers. If there are anymore questions concerning this undervalued grammatical construction, D'Youville College will surely help to clear them up by answering commonly asked questions and giving multiple examples. J.C
Subject Verb Agreement (Purdue University)
Subject-verb agreement may seem easy, but conflicts can sometimes emerge, as, for instance, when a phrase squeezes between the subject and verb. Consult this page before trying to wrangle your subjects and verbs into agreement. Subject verb agreement may seem straightforward, but this site highlights confusing circumstances and clarifies when a subject is singular versus plural. J.K.
Using Semicolons (University of Wisconsin)
Do you find yourself overusing the comma in your essays? Do your sentences seem too long or too short? Try using the semicolon! It's a great new way to punctuate your thoughts. B.Z.
When to Use I.E. in a Sentence (The Oatmeal)
The average person see the terms "i.e. and e.g." everyday in writing and often treats them as one and the same. The Oatmeal clears away this misconception in this cartoon that distinguishes between i.e. and e.g. The Oatmeal will inform you while making you enjoy the grammar lesson, i.e., rolling on the floor laughing. C.C.
Who Versus Whom (Grammar Girl)
Got pronoun problems? Grammar Girl to the rescue! In this handy lesson, you'll learn the difference between "who," which refers to the subject, and "whom," which refers to the object. Since Grammar Girl loves you, she has come up with a handy mnemonic device for you, the object of her affections. How sweet! M.C.K.
PunctuationApostrophes (University of Maryland University College)
Ever wondered whether it's 1990's or 1990s? This website explains exactly when and how to use apostrophes. Learn the rules for possession, contractions, and omissions so that you never misuse an apostrophe again! M.K.N.
Capitalizing Titles (Grammar Girl)
It is important to capitalize titles correctly, but sometimes it seems each person has learned different rules for doing so. Grammar Girl provides a few universal rules for capitalizing titles and other general concepts, such as consistency in the capitalization of words. J.D.
Commas (Towson University)
Often overlooked, some of the smallest players can have the biggest impact on any game and that is certainly the case with commas. This guide explains why we even use commas in writing and provides a few examples to help you take a quick break from writing to refresh your "comma sense." R.W.
Commas (Purdue University)
We're going to eat Grandpa! Sounds vicious, doesn't it? That's the beauty of comma usage. They can help articulate meaning or make lists clearer, especially when, without one, people can get the wrong idea about what you're really trying to say. This site lays it out in an easy-to-understand way and will help you announce: "We're going to eat, Grandpa!" (See? Huge difference.) G.M.
Commas (Capital Community College)
I need more money John. What is a money John? What is an oxford comma? These are some of the little things that make the comma so special. It is a unique little mark on a page that is so versatile. While commas can be used a multitude of ways, a missing one can drastically change the meaning of a sentence or piece of writing. Check out this site to avoid those pesky mistakes. J.W.
Dashes and Parentheses (Saint Michael's College)
Ever since reading Emily Dickinson, have you been overtaken by a confusion-a strange compulsion to-use-dashes-everywhere? And what about those parentheses?! This page summarizes the uses and differences between the two, offering clear and concise guidance regarding when to block off words with dashes and when to put tangential thoughts into parentheses. J.K.
How to Use a Semicolon (The Oatmeal)
With examples ranging from the discussion of hairy knuckles to advice about plague rats, the Oatmeal will help you learn to master this pesky punctuation mark. You will learn about the different uses of semicolons; the internal semicolon is illustrated in this very sentence! In its poster format, you could easily forget that you're learning grammar. As said by the author, "Both bears and semicolons have pause." M.C.K.
Hyphens and Dashes (Purdue University)
What is the correct use of the hyphen and the dash? What is the difference between them? The hyphen is short, single-character line that connects words together, whereas a dash is double the length of a hyphen and indicates a break or interruption of a thought. This website discusses the different uses of the hyphen and the dash with accompanying examples. C.B.
Semicolons (Grammar Girl)
Students commonly fear the semi-colon. Did you know that a semicolon should actually be used to separate two main clauses? Not too scary at all, but if you are letting your fear of the semicolon control you, then check out this article that outlines exactly how this very not scary punctuation mark can make your sentences more interesting and complex. So have no fear! Grammar Girl is here! C.H.
Quotations (Hamilton College)
In any discipline, quotations can increase the strength of an argument through the incorporation of textual support or give credit to other writers when you incorporate their ideas. This handout will show you how to properly format quotations. Knowing how to format quotes can not only contribute to the lucidity of your writing but help you to avoid accidental plagiarism and an uncomfortable visit to your Dean. L.H.
Semicolons (University of Wisconsin)
It's a comma! It's a colon! No, it's their superhero of a brother, the semicolon. From fixing run-on sentences to connecting items in a list, semicolons can be incredibly effective…if you know how to use them. This site explains the rules of using a semicolon super easily and gives you examples if you still aren't sure. Be a grammar superhero! G.M.
Semicolon and Colon (Xavier University)
Semicolons and colons cause such confusion. Have you ever inaccurately used a comma just to avoid the semi-colon? Xavier University gives a concise analysis of the difference between the uses of colons and semicolons. M.N.
Working with Sentences
Improving Sentence Clarity (Purdue University)
A clear sentence enables a reader to comprehend meaning easily. To write a compact paper with a graceful flow of ideas, writers use specific techniques to improve sentence clarity. This site provides detailed instructions and examples to help you spot and fix unclear sentences. Areas discussed include noun strings (e.g."This report explains our investment growth stimulation projects"), multiple negatives, and the overuse of "be" words, all of which are common stylistic gaffes that obscure meaning. X.Z.
Sentence Fragments and Run-Ons(University of North Carolina)
This website identifies both sentence fragments and run-on sentences as well as examples of each. The site also includes a link to the UNC Writing Center for further clarification. C.B.
Varying Your Sentence Structure (Walden University)
When writing a formal essay, it is easy to feel as if your writing is droning on without variation or intrigue. You can take simple steps to interest the reader and improve your writing style. This site outlines various ways of altering sentence length and type to create a more interesting essay. A.F.
Working with Words
Avoid These Lazy Mistakes in Your Writing (Write it Sideways)
Writing it Sideways helps writers avoid lazy mistakes. Author Suzannah Freeman explains the common problems among writers of using cliches, idioms, stereotypical characters, and clunky prose. This brief article helps writers question their own writing style, so they can better their writing for the future. C.C.
Building a Better Vocabulary (Capital Community College Foundation)
So you're writing that paper and you're fairly satisfied, but you're missing some pizazz. Spice up your writing and add depth to your narrative by building a more expansive vocabulary. Check out this link for handy exercises to broaden your linguistic lexicon. N.C.
Style, Diction, Tone and Voice (Wheaton College)
Word usage is vital when trying to convey a specific meaning to your audience. You can create a formal or informal voice through your words. If you are questioning how to establish your 'voice' as a writer, this article will help you to distinguish yourself. The site outlines how word choice affects your tone and, ultimately, your style. A.F.
Using Transitional Words and Phrases (Illinois Valley Community College)
You want your writing to be more cohesive; however, you do not know how to make it so. Transitional words, like "however" used in the previous sentence, is one place to start. Transitional words show relationships between sentences and ideas and can help improve the flow of your writing. Here you will find a list of transition words and tips on how to use them. F.A