Teaching with Sentence Patterns

There are many ways to use sentence patterns to teach multilingual students (English learners). They can be used to practice both oral and written sentences. Emergent, beginning, intermediate, and advanced students can all benefit from learning, understanding, and practicing sentence patterns. 

Emergent students or those with limited or interrupted formal education (SLIFE) can be encouraged to speak and write using sentence patterns. Different patterns can be used to teach and reinforce a wide variety of English grammar and vocabulary.

  • Pattern 1 (Subject-Be Verb-Noun) Simple statements and vocabulary
  • I am a student. He is a boy. It is a pencil. They are my friends. 
  • Pattern 2 (Subject-Be Verb-Adjective) Describe people or objects
  • My hair is black. The sky is blue. The game was great!

Sentence patterns can also be used with beginning, intermediate, and advanced students to expand their speaking and writing abilities. A teacher can focus on teaching one grammatical structure like adjectives.

  • She sang them a song.
  • The young mother sang the little twins a soft, sweet song.

A sentence pattern can also be expanded by adding a variety of grammatical structures: adjectives, description phrases, adverbs, infinitives, and prepositional phrases.

  • Sam likes grapes.
  • My best friend, Sam, likes green grapes. (adjective, descriptive phrase)
  • My best friend, Sam really likes to eat green grapes. (adverb)
  • My best friend, Sam really likes to eat green grapes for a snack after school. (preposition)

Expanding sentences is a great warm-up exercise! If small groups are assigned to produce one sentence together, it will generate good discussions and arguments over word choice, grammar, punctuation, and word order. Write the resultant sentences on the board to reinforce writing longer, more complex sentences with details. These will eventually be incorporated into students' speech, reports, and other written assignments.

Sentence patterns can be used in multiple ways for all levels of multilingual / English learners. They can be used to teach and increase both speaking and writing skills. Sentence patterns also help to clarify how English word order and grammar work together to create and convey meaning.

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