Week of January 20, 2013—Syntax Needn’t Be Taxing
Wednesday, January 23— Sentence Type
This year at school our fourth graders have participated in GPS Class on Mondays.
G-Grammar, P-Punctuation, and S-Spelling. Sadly these topics haven’t been taught
directly to lots of children for years (and their writing shows it). Suddenly our
students are expected to excel in these areas, but teachers have little or no
curriculum to use to teach the topics. So we’ve been developing our own
curriculum as we go through the year and spot the needs of our students. One of
their needs, is one of the important parts of syntax—knowing and using effectively
different types of sentences and knowing how to punctuate them correctly.
Think back to your grammar instruction and you’ll probably be able to recall the
four kinds of sentences.
§ Declarative—A declarative sentence makes a statement and is followed by a period.
Example: The neighbor’s dog is barking again.
§ Imperative—A command or polite request followed by a period or an exclamation mark.
Example: Please close the door. (Polite request.)
Get over here now! (Command)
§ Exclamatory—An exclamatory sentence expresses great excitement or emotion. It ends with an exclamation mark.
Example: The British are coming!
§ Interrogative—An interrogative sentence asks a question and ends with a question mark.
Example: Is this your house?
A quick glance at our book of the week—The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr.
Morris Lessmore by William Joyce—reveals no exclamation points or question
marks, so we can infer that the sentences in this book are all declarative or
imperative. With closer examination, I found only declarative sentences.
When I examine Cat Secrets by Jef Czekaj I found periods, question marks, and
question marks—we truly see declarative, imperative, exclamatory, and
interrogative sentences in this book. Why the difference? I think it probably goes
back to tone. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore has a more serious
and warm-hearted tone, while Cat Secrets is more playful, with wacky humor. The
sentences used in each picture book fit the need of the story. The same should be
true in our writing.
A warning about exclamation marks—Jef Czekaj could get away with using lots of
exclamation points in Cat Secrets. You and I have to be careful with those little
end marks. A little dab will do ya when it comes to exclamation marks.
There are, of course, other types of sentences—simple, compound, and complex
sentences. Since most picture books tend to not venture into the world of
compound and complex sentences all that much, I’m not going to delve into them
here. But a great online resource that explains each of these types of sentences can
be found at: http://www.eslbee.com/sentences.htm.