The Sentence Builder Program is a free, comprehensive 108 page resource that will help your children to learn to construct grammatically correct sentences.
This program uses a combination of oral language stimulation techniques, scaffolded contextual cues, phonemic awareness cues and written language exercises to facilitate students’ awareness of phrase, sentence, and grammatical structures.
These skills are developed to help scaffold students’ ability to learn to read and spell new words.
The Sentence Builder program features seven chapters:
1. Recommended Sequence and Example Session
2. Sentence Builder Game
3. Reading/Spelling Assessment
4. Word Learning Activities
5. Game – Advanced Level
6. Sentence writing/drawing activities
7. Rating Progress and My Word List Charts
The Sentence Builder program is limited to students learning 30 unique phrases and 38 individual words. Students will have multiple opportunities in a variety of different contexts to learn and relearn the target words and phrases.
Once students have had the opportunity to learn the programs words and phrases, they will have increased confidence when combining the target phrases to form, read and eventually write grammatically correct and original sentences.
Example of a Typical Session
The example depicted here is based on a real life session with a 6 year old boy with language and literacy difficulties. The initial pre-test reading assessment revealed that Charlie (name changed) was able to identify 5 words from the list of 38 words listed.
The words Charlie was able to identify were a, the, at, on and is. The clinician decides to target four words from the list for this session. The amount of words and concepts to learn per session will vary for each student. Some students may only be able to effectively learn one to two words, whereas other students will cope quite well with learning up to five words in a 30 – 40 minute session.
The Sentence Builder Program Goals
The words chosen for Charlie to learn this session are boy and girl. The session begins with Charlie working through the worksheets for each word. The worksheets take 5 -10 minutes each to complete. At the completion of each worksheet the clinician asked Charlie to write the newly learnt word onto a whiteboard. With some support, Charlie was able to write both boy and girl.
(At this early stage, particularly when a student is learning new words, it’s important to provide maximal scaffolding to ensure that the student doesn’t become overwhelmed with the information they are required to learn and retain.)
The Sentence Builder Game
The clinician begins the Sentence Builder program game. All of the various coloured grammar tiles are laid out in rows before Charlie. Charlie is handed a sheet with the coloured boxes. The rules and the sequence of the session are then explained to Charlie.
Clinician: ‘Today, we are going to learn a little about sentences. A sentence always has a verb and is a complete thought. So, Jack walked up the hill is a sentence, whereas Jack up hill is not. Each sentence is made up of things called phrases. Each of these little coloured tile is a phrase and we are going to combine them to make our own sentences.’ An introduction of this kind is optional. You can begin the game initially by simply having the student sort the tiles into their colour groups (green, red, yellow, blue).'
The game begins by Charlie rolling a dice and matching the dice roll with the colour displayed on the chart. On this occasion Charlie rolls a 2, and with guidance from the clinician, selects a green tile.
Clinician: ‘Ok that’s a green tile. The green words are noun phrases. Have a look on your chart, where should the green tile go?’ Charlie searches his chart and points to the top green bar.
Clinician: ‘Good boy, that’s right. Look carefully at those green tiles you may recognise the words we discussed before. Do you remember the words?’ Charlie: ‘Boy and girl.’
Clinician: ‘Well, some of those green tiles have boy and girl written on them. Can you find the words boy and girl?’
Charlie finds the tiles.
Clinician: ‘Well done Charlie. Pick one to put on your green chart.’ Charlie selects a boy and places it on his chart. Clinician: ‘What does it say?’ Charlie: ‘A boy.’
Clinician: ‘Well done. That’s right, it says a boy. That is the first part of your sentence. A boy is a noun phrase, and is the first part of your sentence.’
Grammar Help Sheet
The clinician next places the grammar help sheet on the table.
Clinician: ‘A boy is a noun phrase. This word at the top of the page (the clinician points to the word, noun) written in green, says noun. Nouns name the everyday things in our world. So we can see that the little pictures are people and things. A train is a noun, a ship is a noun, the girl dressed in purple is a noun. You are a noun and so am I. And the tile you selected is a noun. Boy is a noun.’
The game continues in this manner with the clinician consistently commenting on the structure of the sentence. The clinician continually relates the structure of the noun phrases a boy and the girl and their relationship to the structure the two sentences that Charlie creates.
Throughout the session the clinician scaffolds each tile selection that Charlie makes. The focus of the session is on Charlie being able to recognise and hopefully write the words boy and girl at the completion of the session. A bonus therapy outcome of course is that Charlie is being immersed in intensive and specific oral language and is also learning grammar and syntactical structures in a fun and meaningful activity.
It’s not important at this point that Charlie can recognise or read any of the words or phrases that he has selected for his chart. With correct scaffolding it’s possible or even likely Charlie can read most of the sentences he has structured by the end of the session. This is possible because the coloured phrase tiles have been commented on repeatedly by the clinician, who has also asked Charlie to repeat the words and
phrases, again and again.
Principles of Language Intervention
With language or literacy intervention the key ingredients are repetition, scaffolded support and intensity. It also helps immeasurably to package the intervention within a meaningful context. The Sentence Builder program provides the context where the student can practice the same grammatical structures and forms in multiple combinations.
At the completion of this session, the clinician once again asks Charlie to write the target words boy and girl onto a whiteboard. Without any scaffolding, Charlie produces boy and gurl, which are entered onto the rating scale and the my words list. The word gurl is incorrect, but it’s very encouraging that Charlie got close in his attempt.
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For Students Ages 5-8
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