Building sentences – Early Years
Learning to build sentences is an important skill for young children and begins after children learn to link single words together. This takes place alongside their vocabulary development; the two skills are closely interlinked. Children need to know around 50 words before they will be ready to start building sentences – take a look at the vocabulary pages for some ideas.
Young children learn to build sentences by listening to others; often this skill develops rapidly after they have learned to link 2 or 3 words together. They will make lots of mistakes along the way and rely on adults modeling correct sentences and sometimes correcting mistakes in a supportive way appropriate to their age and stage of development.
Once children can speak in sentences, they can use language to make requests, comment, ask and answer questions, and a number of other purposes!
- Reduce background noise when talking to young children. Create quiet times within the day when children can listen to an adult talking to the group.
- Take turns within small groups to speak in simple sentences.
- Comment on what different children in the group are wearing or how they are feeling
- Do not correct the child’s attempts at language negatively…
- Instead… Model back the correct form e.g. if the child says “I winned”, you say “yes you won”, emphasising the key word.
Children of this age will begin joining 2 words together e.g., more juice, mummy work, eat banana.
Note: A child needs to learn around 50 words before they can start joining words.
Children of this age progress to joining 3-4 words together in a sentence. At this age, it is common for children to:
- start to use past tense e.g. kicked, clapped.
- begin to mark possession e.g. girl’s hat, dog’s tail.
- use regular plurals e.g. cats, dogs, socks.
- miss out function words such as ‘the’ and ‘is’.
Children of this age are producing longer sentences by putting lots of words together and may use joining words such as ‘and’ & ‘because’. They may also:
- use auxiliary verbs (is, was, has) i.e. “the man is eating”
- use determiners e.g. “the man is kicking the ball”.
- increasingly use past tense and 3rd person singular e.g. he drinks, she eats.
- overgeneralise irregular verb endings e.g. “throwed” (instead of ‘threw’).
Children of this age begin including more grammatical information in their sentences:
- Use the grammatical words (e.g. is, was, has, the, a) i.e. “the man is eating” instead of “man eating”.
- Increased use of verb tenses e.g. he drinks, she eats. S/he may make mistakes such as saying ‘throwed’ instead of ‘threw’, ‘runned’ instead of ‘ran’.
- Uses personal (e.g. he/she/they) and possessive (e.g. his/hers/theirs) pronouns.
Ask lots of questions e.g. Why? What? Where?