What are Sentence Fragments and Why Should A Busy Classroom Teacher Care?

If you’re a classroom teacher, you know this feeling.  A student proudly hands in a revised and edited piece of writing.  But, when you review it, many of the sentences are incomplete or fragmented.  While we expect students in the early elementary grades to be learning about sentence formation, when older students turn in fragmented sentences it can be a big concern. But what’s a classroom teacher to do about fixing the situation? 

What is a sentence fragment? 

Every sentence needs a subject and a predicate.  When we teach students this at an early age, it will help them learn the basics of sentence formation.  Kids learn to write using letters that form words, and then words are put together to make sentences. Sentences are combined to make short pieces of writing and from there students learn to write paragraphs and essays.  But, when students are not taught sentence essentials like what subjects and predicates do in sentences, then they will use more sentence fragments in their writing.  Sentence fragment examples might include “ran away quickly” or “the yellow sun”.  The first example is missing the subject and the second is missing the predicate. 

Problems with sentence fragments

Most commonly, students compose sentence fragments when they do not understand that a sentence needs a subject and a predicate.  Sometimes, students forget to finish their thoughts, and this causes them to write sentence fragments instead of sentences. Writing fragments is natural to do because spoken English differs from written English. We often speak in fragments, but it is less acceptable to write in fragments. When speaking in fragments, we can clarify meaning by asking and answering questions. However, we cannot clarify our meaning when we write in fragments.

Teaching writers to identify and correct fragments

We need to teach writers to identify fragments in writing and encourage them to check for sentence fragments even at an early age.  When kids are taught to identify subjects and predicates in example sentences, they can then begin to check their own writing.  When students know how to fix sentence fragments, they will be more successful writers.. If they can find both a subject and predicate in every sentence they have written, they will know that their writing is free of fragments. Whew, what a relief!

3 Easy Steps to Teach Your Students about Sentence Fragments

  1. Teach your students to identify subjects and predicates in a variety of provided sentences. Underlining the subject and circling the predicate (or the reverse) with colored pencils is a fun way to do this. 
  2. Have your students write their own sentences and identify their own subjects and predicates using colored pencils like in step 1. 
  3. Use our Sentence Fragment Game to reinforce these important concepts with small group and individual reinforcement as desired! 

Have you taught your students about sentence structures like subject and predicate?  Comment below, we’d love to hear about it.  

Looking for more writing resources? 

Check out our Sentence Expansion game here.

Our Sentence Combination game teaches another important sentence skill and can be found here. And grab our free guide 5 Favorite Writing Resources here.

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