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Just-In-Time Syntax Booster

By Jessica Aggrey

This semester, I’ve had a number of students who struggle a lot to create coherent and understandable sentences. Of course, there are many factors that contribute to this, but one main thing I’ve noticed is a poor understanding of basic English syntax and common sentence patterns.

In response to this need, I created this handout that I plan to extend into a reoccurring classroom routine. In my classes, I often do just-in-time grammar reviews when I notice that students are making a particular grammar mistake. I plan to use this handout as a form of just-in-time syntax practice when I notice common syntax errors in my students’ speech and writing.

The Handout

>>Access the handout in Google Docs<< 

>>Download a PDF of the handout<<

The handout is structured as follows (scroll to the end to see a preview of the handout). Students are given one or more sentence patterns with several example sentences for each one. In class, students will work collaboratively in groups to write their own sentences following each pattern.

Next, divide the board into sections for each sentence type; then ask each group to write one of their sentences for each sentence type on the board. Go over these as a class correcting any mistakes and pointing out if the sentence doesn’t fit the pattern.

Next, students will do the second part by correcting sentences with mistakes and then writing them under the correct sentence type on the handout. For homework, students will complete the backside of the handout that has space for them to write more sentences with each type.

Just-In-Time Routine

You can use this handout format to create a just in time syntax routine in your class. Keep a document where you write down sentences with syntax mistakes that your students make. You can pull these from their homework, writing assignments, and when possible, oral discussions in class. At the end of each week, look through the list and see if you notice any patterns. What sentence structures are they trying to make but not succeeding at?

Pick 1-4 of the top sentence structures that the students need to work on, and put them on the handout with a word pattern guide and example sentences. Then, add some of their own mistaken sentences on the bottom for the second part of the activity. Have students work on the handout in class as described above.

English Syntax Practice


How do you get your students to improve their sentence structure? Sign up to TESOL Planner and join in the discussion forums.


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