Sentence Building ESL Reading Activity


This is a useful exercise for reading, sentence building and improving sentence structure. In this activity, students work in groups to arrange words in order and form a number of different sentences based on a particular theme and use proper grammatical forms.

Student Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced

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Age Group: Kids, Adults

Sentence Building

Sentence Building Reading Activity Preparation:

In a Word doc, prepare a long list of sentences. It would be best to focus on a particular grammar point or verb tense that you would like your class to improve upon. Furthermore, if you are doing the activity as an extension of a topic in a text book, then try to make sentences which are based on the same theme from the book.

After creating your long list of sentences, make sure that the font size is big enough so that it is easy enough to cut out using some scissors. You may want to put the sentences in a box frame so you have some guides to cut around.

Once all of the words are cut out and prepared, the words for each individual sentence together with a paperclip so that nothing gets mixed up. For instance, if you have 10 sentences, then you should have 10 paperclips to keep them organized with.

Sentence Building Reading Activity Guidelines:

In class, start the activity by showing an example of the grammar structure that you are focusing on. Say, for instance, if you are doing the present progressive tense, write an example with the structure labeled on the board.

Have the students talk about things that they are doing right now and have them practice saying different examples using the correct structure. Get feedback and help with any grammatical errors that they make.

Next, get out the groups of words in the paperclips and take one of the groups of words to use as an example. Using a really large print out for the demonstration would be even more useful, but it isn’t necessary depending on the size of your class. Put the words up on the board with magnets so that they can see what you are doing. Once all the words are visible, elicit what word should come first in the sentence then the second, third, forth word etc.

By the end of the demonstration, the class can see the completed sentence and have a good understanding of what to do for the exercise. Put the students in groups and give them each a paperclip with the paper words.

Tell them to arrange the words in order to form their sentences and give them a time limit. Usually about 1 to 2 minutes is ideal depending on their abilities. You could even set a timer to make more of a competition out of it.

Once the time is up, tell them to stop and go around to check if they have arranged the words in the correct order. Correct any mistakes and make sure they understand where they went wrong. You could keep track of the mistakes for explaining to the class as a whole after the activity. If you want, you could also keep score of each group on the board to make it more competitive and engaging.

After correcting each group individually, have the students shuffle up the words and put them back in the paperclip. Then, have the groups pass their paperclips of words to the other groups and do the same task again. Continue like this until every group has had a chance to form number of different sentences. Remember to correct after each round and keep note of any repetitive errors.

Once the last round of the sentence building game is over, tally up the points, reward the winning group of students a prize and elicit the correct answers for each group of sentences. Explain where the most common errors occurred and help with any other difficulties that the students had forming proper sentence structure.

Follow-Up ESL Activities:

As a follow-up activity, you could use some of the sentences that were constructed as introductory statements to a dialog. Students could use the sentences to test listening skills similar to the Movie Buzz Listening Activity. Alternatively, students could create their own sentences, cut them up and test their classmates as an extension to the first activity.

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View more ESL activities.


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