Thursday, February 26, 2015

Using Anagrams to Construct and Develop Sentences

In a recent LETRS training, our instructor shared a wonderful activity for helping students develop their awareness of word order in constructing sentences. She introduced the idea of sentence anagrams, an activity in which students examine words and rearrange them in a logical order to create a sentence. I have begun using this exercise with my students, and while it proves to be challenging at times, they love it. I simply write the words on small notecards (I usually cut the cards to conserve paper) and place the words on the table in a random order. They immediately begin playing with the words and possible word orders. It's amazing how intensely they focus on this sentence-building exercise.

I always use words within the sentences that reflect the current phonics skill we are studying for reading/spelling. The wonderful part about this activity is that it provides fluency with reading and application of the particular phonics pattern, without any anxiety that struggling writers may experience in a standard dictation exercise. I still use dictation regularly, but it is used in conjunction with sentence anagrams as well.

Here are two images of sentences from different grade level classes. This shows how even basic sentences can be used as anagrams with younger students compared to more complex sentences for older students.

I take these anagrams one step further by providing students with blank notecards, on which they write a word they would add to the sentence. Sometimes I specify which part of speech I would like for them to add, (adjective, adverb, etc.) while at other times I give them complete freedom to experiment. Again, they love this. Not only does it help personalize the activity for them, but they have so much fun combining their ideas to create silly -but still grammatically sensible- sentences.

I usually give my students markers with which to write their words, and we note the fact that their descriptive words make the sentence more colorful. In the images below, you can see how a few students began to expand the original sentences with their colorful words.

You can easily incorporate this concept into your daily instruction with small groups! It takes little preparation, and once you establish the routine of the activity, most of the "work" is done by the students.

For those of you who teach younger children, I have a pre-made option available in the Tally Tales TPT store that could be used as a center or independent learning activity for young readers and writers. This activity pack, "Sentence Building and Using Details to Write Stronger Sentences" builds upon the concept of sentence anagrams, but is particularly appropriate for use with smaller children.

This product contains a variety of colorful pictures with corresponding word cards for building a sentence. While not necessary when working with older students, the pictures are particularly supportive for young learners who are in the foundational stages of writing and constructing meaning through print.
These are all ready to print, cut, and laminate for a center full of sentence anagrams! Of course, you could also pull them to use as a tool in small group instruction.
In addition, I have provided a word bank to which students may refer when writing their own sentences.
 I also included posters for "I can" statements that correspond to this activity.
I hope this post will be helpful to you! I would love to hear about your experience with sentence anagrams, should you choose to incorporate them into your daily instruction. Good luck! :)