In Sentence Island, the writing component of Michael Clay Thompson’s language arts, our latest topic is sentence fragments. In particular, we’ve been grappling with the idea that a sentence can have all the parts Alex has learned that a sentence needs (a subject, a predicate, perhaps a direct object or a subject complement, even punctuation), and yet still fail to express a complete thought.
That lesson led to a totally fun writing activity today.
We took turns writing a sentence fragment. The other person had to explain why the fragment was incomplete, and then add material to turn it into a complete thought. As always, with MCT, there was a lot more going on in this activity than the simple grammar exercise. Having to complete sentence fragments guided Alex towards using much more complicated sentence structures than normally appear in her writing.
(Please excuse the handwriting. Unlined paper, you know, and we were cuddled up on the couch instead of sitting at the table.)
Here’s how our sentences came out:
Although I had never seen a unicorn before. (My fragment.)
Although I had never seen a unicorn before, it felt like I had seen it before. (Alex’s completion.)
When the unicorn took me for a ride on its back. (Alex’s fragment.)
When the unicorn took me for a ride on its back, we charged through the dark forest as trolls assailed us on all sides. (My completion.)
Prancing and pawing its hoofs, lowering its horn. (My fragment.)
Prancing and pawing its hoofs, lowering its horn, the unicorn was beautiful and scary at the same time. (Alex’s completion.)
The unicorn had to fly to an island and the trolls had to just surround the lake because. (Alex’s fragment.)
The unicorn had to fly to an island and the trolls had to just surround the lake because, as everyone knows, trolls are made primarily from dirt, and one drop of water will dissolve them into mud. (My completion.)
For now, the unicorn and I were safe, but! (My fragment.)
For now, the unicorn and I were safe, but the unicorn broke its wing on the rocks as we landed. (Alex’s completion.)
“Oh no!” I said. “We’ll have to.” (Alex’s fragment.)
“Oh no!” I said. “We’ll have to get you to safety somehow, so your wing can be looked after.” But how? (My completion.)
I think we may try to work some more with this story – not necessarily interrupting each other in mid-sentence, but continuing to alternate sentences as we work on reviewing all the things Alex has learned that a sentence should be. It was certainly a highly motivating project.