Complex Sentences

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Complex Sentences: examining dependent and independent clauses

This lesson is designed to expose 4th graders to complex sentences used in non-fiction. Exposing them to good examples and challenging them to examine the sentence structure by identifying dependent and independt clauses should help them become more fluent with complex sentences. The lesson is designed to be used with 3 books by Bernard Stonehouse: Partners, Against the Odds and Strange Beginnings.

  • Review what a sentence must have (subject, action, complete thought, makes sense)
  • Read Black Spider Monkey and Manatee in the Against the Odds book, and Cleaner-Wrasse and Coral Cod in the Partners book.
  • Pass out the worksheet and tell the students we'd be looking at how good complex sentences are written.
  • "We find a lot of complex sentences in non-fiction text, especially as we get older and read more complicated books. It can be tricky to write a good complex sentence. The key is to start with a good sentence and add to it. The good sentence part of it is a independent clause. What we add to it are dependent clauses. Independent clauses can stand on their own, dependent clauses cannot. Every sentence must have an independent clause. Let's look for some in these sentences."
  • I model the first section of the worksheet, thinking aloud. "Here's a big sentence. Sixty-five feet (20m) or more above the ground, in a South American jungle, a mother spider monkey is swinging through the treetops, using both hands, both feet, and her tail. Well the subject is a mother spider monkey. So I think this section in the middle is the independent clause, a mother spider monkey is swinging through the treetops. Yes, that has a subject, an action, a complete thought and it makes sense. Let's highlight that part because its the independent clause."
  • I do this for the next 2 sentences, highlighting the independent clauses.
  • Have the class help identify the independent clauses in the next 3 sentences.
  • Have students do the last 3 sentences on their own
  • Pass out copies of individual pages from the Strange Beginnings book.
  • Students read their page and copy their favorite complex sentence down onto the My Favorite Complex Sentence line and highlight the independent clause.
  • Have a few students read their favorite complex sentence to the class and we take dictation
  • Watch clips about individual animals from Jeff Corwin South America Rain Forest, found on United Streaming. After watching a 2 minute clip about an animal challenge students to write a complex sentence about that animal in the My Original Sentence section. They should highlight their independent clause and partners should check their sentence to make sure their independent clause is a good sentence, and the sentence on a whole makes sense.

Originally contributed by Carolyn Grumm

Complex Sentences: Only You Can Prevent Dangling Modifiers

This powerpoint takes students through a lesson on using modifiers to create more interesting and complex sentences

Dangling Modifiers PowerPoint

originally contributed by Michelle Chapman

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