Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Interrogative Sentences and How to Teach Them: Resources for Young Learners

Teaching the different types of sentences can be quite challenging, especially with young learners. I have found that, despite the use of numerous chants or cheers, and copious amounts of writing practice, many students find it difficult to conceptualize different types of sentences -particularly interrogative sentences. Exclamatory is easy -and fun! Declarative sentences are reliable. Interrogative sentences are challenging. We can tell students all day to pay attention to whether or not a sentence is asking a question, but those of you who teach little ones know that this instruction does not register much understanding at first. Add to that the complexity of reading with respect to prosodic features (aka… paying attention to punctuation and phrasing), and this process can become quite complex for young or struggling readers. 

So these are a few techniques, tips, and resources that I have developed along the way to use with my students. Some of these ideas are my own modifications of instruction I have learned elsewhere (from training or other teachers); some of them are entirely my own. In all, I have found this to be helpful for my students, so hopefully there's something here you can use in your class as well!

To begin, I do explain to my students that interrogative sentences ask questions. To help them better detect those questions when they are not quite to that level of understanding yet, I provide an easy tip: look for a key word at the beginning of the sentence. We call these our question words, because I have them displayed on a large, oversized question mark in my classroom. The concept is simple: if a sentence begins with a question word, it should end with a question mark. I tell students to check our question mark for the first word of the sentence. If they find it, they know that sentence will need a question mark at the end. At first, they depend a lot on our wall reference. Over time, with continued instruction, they develop a better understanding of what it means to ask a question, and they need the reference less and less. 

I will say that the collection on my question mark is not an exhaustive list; there are several missing. These are just some of the most common ones I knew my students would encounter. You may choose to display many more -or less- on your own!
As we continue practicing with these sentences, I begin to implement practice with expression while reading. Look at the sentences below. We began with nothing but the red words. No end marks. First, we read the sentence. We examine the first word (circle it in blue), and the students hunt for the words on our large question mark. If they find the word on the question mark, we then add our own question mark at the end of the sentence. Tip: I keep a fly swatter on hand, and the student that finds the word first on the question mark gets to "splat" it with the fly swatter. 

Next, we talk about how we read sentences that end with a question mark. I model reading a sentence that ends with a period. I draw a straight, flat line under that sentence to represent the tone in my voice, as it does not change. Then, we revisit our interrogative sentence. I read the sentence again, drawing a different black line, which will rise with the last word. Students follow along, watching the line I draw and listening as I read. Then, they practice reading the same way. We do this for every sentence. It's a tedious process, but really, the students love it. I think the lines help them better visualize the changes in their voices as they read. Tip: Add a kinesthetic element to this activity by having students move their hand in a straight line as they read, and then raise their hands as their voices rise toward the end of the sentence. 
For continued application, we play a game of "Mark It!" This is my adapted version of a game known as "Alphabet Prosody" in the text Fifty Nifty Activities for 5 Components and 3 Tiers of Reading Instruction. This activity is a great way to practice fluency with prosodic features while also reinforcing alphabetic knowledge. In "Mark It!" students have to apply what they know about punctuation marks to read letters of the alphabet with expression.

Creating this activity is simple: use popsicle sticks to make a set of alphabet letters as well as several sets of punctuation marks (. ! ?).
To play, each student draws five alphabet letters and five punctuation marks. The student arranges his/her letters and punctuation marks in any pattern or order. Then the student reads each letter with expression according to the punctuation mark that follows it. Each student draws new letters and creates new patters to continue the activity as long as desired.

My students love this activity. It is such a fun way to reinforce the expressions associated with punctuation, and since you only use letters of the alphabet, the reading component of this exercise is not intimidating for young or struggling readers. 
If you don't want to use popsicle sticks, I have an alternate, ready-made version of this activity as well as multiple additional resources available in my new TPT product Writing & Reading Interrogative Sentences: Resources for Young Learners  now available in the Tally Tales TPT store.

See the images below for a quick preview of the goodies available in this new product!