Struggles with Syntax, Volume 2

A few months back, I shared a syntax technique I used with one of my lowest proficient students.  My little buddy has been in the USA for just over a year; he knows a lot of words, but doesn't understand how and where they fit in a sentence. 

I started with a box of word blocks and dumped them on the table.  

Next, I picked out an easy sentence, like, "I have a blue car," and showed and read it to him.  Then I scrambled the blocks and he had to re-arrange them.  

He worked hard on this one!

 What I noticed is that he was certain his words were in the right order, and me asking him, "Do you think that sounds right?" was not effective in making him understand. He almost always said yes, because it did sound fine to him. After realizing my mistake, I gave him two options -  his version and my version -  and let him choose.  If he chose wrong, I modeled the sentence for him.  

Finally, the way he got through this tough one was listening to me model the sentence orally.  It took three or four repetitions, but pointing to the words as I said them helped connect his ears and eyes.

Once he got his words in order and read me the sentence, he separated the blocks into nouns, verbs, and adjectives and wrote them on the whiteboard.   

This kiddo really has a hard time understanding the concepts of verbs, and no amount of BrainPOP, ELF Learning (youtube- they are awesome!) or physical response can make it stick with him.  Creating this sort was a great review.  

I realized half-way through that I should have had him color code the words on the chart.  So I grabbed a handful of blocks and let him sort those.  Then, I had him pick words from each column to try and form his own sentences.  

I was able to hit so many skills with just this little activity: sorting and classifying, one-to-one correspondence, listening skills, fluency, and decoding.  We will definitely be repeating this one! Do you have kids who struggle with syntax? How do you help them?


  1. I LOVE this idea! Those word blocks look so useful! I just started taking grad classes and our first paper is on learning tasks for the 4 cueing systems! I hope you don't mind if I borrow (will give credit, of course!) If you would like something from my store, I would be happy to send you anything as a thank you for this wonderful idea!

    The Sassy Sub

  2. This lesson has it all! I am sure it was very meaningful for your student. I have one particular students (who I mentioned to you!) that could probably really benefit from this. Thanks for the ideas!

    Eclectic Educating

  3. This lesson is perfect and I am so glad I found it. Where did you find those blocks? They are amazing!


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