How to Get Your Students to Write in Complete Sentences

Why does writing in complete sentences seem like such a grueling task? I'm sure you've heard students say, "Do we have to write in complete sentences?" Learn effective teaching strategies to help even your most reluctant writers. These tips will guide your students to be successful writers.

Students are being held to more rigorous standards. Most teachers not only require students to write in complete sentences when writing essays, but also when answering text-dependent questions for reading comprehension, math problems, and content area activities. With this requirement in all subject areas, students need to master the basic tools to writing in complete sentences.  

Why go back to the basics?

A shocking fact:  27% of 12th graders in the U.S. perform at grade level in writing. Many upper grade teachers think students already have the fundamentals of sentence structure ingrained in their brains. They quickly learn this is far from the truth. Although subjects and predicates are introduced in the lower grade Common Core Standards, most upper elementary students need these skills repeated to be successful writers. Middle school and high school teachers also reach out to me for help with the basics to get quality writing out of their students. 

What are the steps to writing in complete sentences?

Taking time to thoroughly explore complete sentences can only benefit your students for future lessons, writing activities, and standards-based goals. Here are 5 steps to achieve one of their writing goals.


Knowledge is power! Explain that every sentence needs a subject and predicate. I like to provide a visual for students to help their long-term memory. The anchor chart below shows a visual of PB and J. Subjects and predicates go together like PEANUT BUTTER and JELLY. Refer back to the PB and J throughout the year for reminders and motivation. A COMPLETE SENTENCE needs a subject and predicate. A SUBJECT is who or what the sentence is about. A PREDICATE is what action the subject does or links the subject by telling what the subject is. 


Model examples like the ones below for your students. This will set the foundation for lessons on fragments and run-on sentences.

complete sentences


They can't remember everything! To help students remember the lesson and have a reference for future writing assignments, they should keep a writing notebook. Whether it is written notes, interactive notes, or printed mini anchor charts, students can use them throughout the year to remind them of the lesson. It gives students a permanent record of what they learned.


Practice makes perfect! In order to get to the next (most important) step, students should practice what they learned. Practice helps students identify subjects, predicates and complete sentences. Just like learning to ride a bike. You might not get it the first time, but practice will help you get there! It is a step in the right direction. Don't stop at this step! Practicing grammar lessons in isolation has proven to be ineffective! Read on!  


Make it real-world! Why shouldn't we teach grammar lessons in isolation? Grammar is best taught in the context of student writing. It is more effective when students learn through writing! On the Pennington Publishing Blog, they list 16 Reasons Why Daily Oral Language (D.O.L.) Doesn't Work. Although it is necessary for the previous steps, students will learn at a deeper level through authentic context. They need to APPLY their knowledge and WRITE! Get your students writing and discuss the complete sentences within their writing.

I hope you learned some effective strategies for your students! 

Resource for teaching complete sentences:


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