Diagramming Sentences with English Language Learners

Diagramming Sentences with English Language Learners

Stacy Zeiger
by Stacy Zeiger 10,410 views

To many, diagramming sentences is an outdated practice that offers few benefits for students. To others, however, diagramming sentences is a way to help improve students' understanding of the English language. If you're not a fan of diagramming sentences or have never tried diagramming sentences in your classroom, we'd like to offer a few reasons why you should bring this archaic practice into your present day classroom.

Diagramming helps students understand how words function in a sentence.

The basis of sentence diagramming is asking students questions about how words function in a sentence and having them represent those relationships visually. For example, you often start by having students diagram a subject and a verb, such as Mark walks. From there, you add on different pieces of information, such as Mark walks slowly or Mark walks the dog. When students diagram a sentence such as Mark walks slowly, they will see that the basis of the sentence is "Mark walks" and begin to see that additional words, such as "slowly" tell how, when, where, or why Mark walked.

Diagramming helps logical thinkers.

Completing a sentence diagram is like putting together a puzzle. Logical thinkers may have trouble understanding how an adverb modifies a verb or how a prepositional phrase works in a sentence if you just explain it to them. However, if may make more sense if they try to put it into the form of a diagram and can see exactly how the pieces connect.

Diagramming helps visual learners.

Similarly, visual learners may have trouble seeing how the pieces of a sentence connect, but when they put them into a more visual diagram the relationship may become clearer. Students may even opt to use different colors of pens or highlighters to distinguish between the different parts of speech or different types of phrases and clauses. For more kinesthetic learners, you can cut up a sentence and have them put the pieces into a diagram to understand the different pieces and how they work together. For example, if you have the sentence Mark walks the dog at noon, students can physically move the words "at noon" to go under walks and see that they describe when Mark walks the dog.

Diagramming forces students to stop and think about a sentence.

It's easy for students to gloss over sentences without really thinking about the various words they contain and how those words function overall. By having students diagram sentences, you force them to slow and actually stop and think about each word in a sentence. For example, even the word "the" plays an important role in a sentence. In the sentence Mark walks the dog, he is walking a specific dog, not just a dog, and that makes a big difference.

Diagramming helps students become better readers.

As students learn to diagram, they start to think about sentences in a more visual way. This can help them when they encounter confusing sentences in the books they read. Diagramming teaches students to ask questions such as "What modifies what?" and those questions can be essential when decoding unfamiliar words and breaking apart long sentences in texts.

Although diagramming does not help students learn about punctuation or spelling, it can help solidify their understanding of the parts of speech and other building blocks of the English language. That understanding is crucial for reading, writing, and speaking English.

For some sentence diagramming fun or to see it in a new light, check out 6 Creative Uses of Sentence Diagramming and Opening Lines of 25 Famous Novels Dissected to Make an Awesome Poster.

P.S. If you enjoyed this article, please help spread it by clicking one of those sharing buttons below. And if you are interested in more, you should follow our Facebook page where we share more about creative, non-boring ways to teach English.

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