Building Sentences – Parents
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.
Sentence building provides the scaffold for your child’s on-going language development. Once your child can speak in sentences, they can use language to make requests, comment, ask and answer questions, and a number of other purposes! Children’s sentences become increasingly complex and more detailed as they are exposed to more complex language. The complexities of language include knowledge and skills linked to accurate use of:
- The parts of language e.g. pronouns
- Tense linked to their concept of time
- Formulation of questions
- Language purpose e.g. clarification, summary, explanation, planning, persuasion
Young people also learn to:
- Explain the rules of grammar
- Consider the interests of their listener
- Use intonation to indicate meaning within a sentence or phrase
NB. Your child will produce longer, more grammatically complex spoken sentences before he/she is able to produce written sentences using these grammatical structures. Sentence building stems from spoken communication with others for a range of purposes.
- Offer specific praise e.g. “That was a really good sentence. You remembered to use the ‘is’ word”. General comments like “Clever boy” do not help the child to become aware of what he/she did well.
- Try to avoid anticipating or completing your child’s sentences, which limits his/her opportunity to express his/her self and reduces self-esteem.
- Discourage others from interrupting whilst your child is speaking.
- Give your child time to respond – count to 6 in your head after asking a question to give them this ‘thinking time’
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’).
Your child will be able to:
- Link lots of words together and may use joining words such as ‘and’
- Ask lots of questions e.g. Why? What? Where?
- 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’
- Use pronouns – his/hers, they/theirs, him/her, ours, himself/herself/yourself/ ourselves
Your child is able to:
- Use well formed sentences with more details
- Use some irregular past tense e.g. “I drank all my milk”, “She took my teddy” but may still make some errors
- Start to use words: ‘if’, ‘because’, ‘so’, ‘could
- Show that they can use language to reason and persuade e.g. “Can I go outside because it’s stopped raining?”
Your child will:
- Ask lots of questions to find out specific information including ‘how’ and ‘why’ e.g. “How do we know burglars can’t get in?”
- Use descriptive language to give more specific information in sentences e.g. “Suddenly, he saw a huge hairy creature”
- Use more complicated grammar and different ways to join phrases to help explain or justify an event e.g. “It was scary because even the man with the dog looked worried, so we decided to get out of there”
Your child will:
- Use a wide range of regular and unusual word endings, with few errors being made e.g. Fought, fell, brought, geese, fish
- Use long and complex sentence structures and more complex joining words to make language flow e.g. ‘Meanwhile’, ‘therefore’ or ‘yet’
- Use complex grammar and sentences effectively to communicate in different ways to clarify, summarise, explain choices and plan
- Uses language to reason and persuade
- Explain some rules of grammar and know when a sentence is not grammatically correct
- Sentences average about 7-10 words –longer in stories than in conversation
Ask lots of questions e.g. Why? What? Where?