CONQUERING COMPLEX SENTENCES

“His blue eyes were light, bright and sparkling behind half-mooned spectacles, and his nose was very long and crooked, as though it had been broken at least twice.”
(J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Scholastic, 1998)

Long, unwieldy sentences are one of the biggest obstacles to comprehension for struggling readers. One of the things that makes HIP Books unique is our editorial commitment to balancing smooth flowing text with accessible sentence lengths. But sometimes our students have no choice but to navigate complex sentences.  We can provide them with some tools to make those sentences manageable by chunking them into smaller parts – and teach some grammar along the way.

PUNCTUATION

CONJUNCTIONS

PREPOSITIONS

Click here for a list of conjunctions.

Click here for a list of common prepositions.

3 SIGNS OF CHUNKS AHEAD!

There are three main indicators of meaningful “chunks” (i.e., clauses and phrases) in sentences:

  • Punctuation marks such as colons, semi-colons and commas are the most obvious signals of phrases and clauses.

“His blue eyes were light, bright and sparkling behind half-mooned spectacles, / and his nose was very long and crooked, / as though it had been broken at least twice.”

  • Conjunctions are words that create sentences-within-sentences called clauses, such as and, because, so, but.

“His blue eyes were light, bright and sparkling behind half-mooned spectacles, / and his nose was very long and crooked, /as though it had been broken at least twice.”

  • Prepositions are words that indicate time and place, such as after, beside or on, and create smaller chunks called prepositional phrases.

“His blue eyes were light, bright and sparkling / behind half-mooned spectacles / and his nose was very long and crooked, as though it had been broken at least twice.”

IT WORKS WITH NONFICTION TOO!

Earthquakes can be so tremendously destructive that it’s hard to imagine they occur by the thousands every day around the world, usually in the form of small tremors.
(https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/natural-disasters/earthquakes/)

One way to chunk the sentence above might be:

Earthquakes can be so tremendously destructive/
that it’s hard to imagine they occur by the thousands every day/
around the world,/
usually in the form of small tremors.

Of course, breaking sentences into too many chunks can be just as confusing as too few chunks. Students should be encouraged to experiment with chunking sentences in ways that work best for them.

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