No matter what you call them – grammar mentor sentences, practice sentences, master sentences – using sentences from literature is a powerful tool.
The majority of my time as a student, I found grammar boring. The assignments held little meaning to me. I completed them and forgot them.
I think my desire to teach my students grammar in a non-boring fashion drove me to create grammar mentor sentences – taking grammar from literature. My third year of teaching, I began pulling sentences from Night to analyze. I found this to be a natural approach to grammar – studying sentences from novels, plays, nonfiction, and everyday dialogue.
This allows students to be invested in grammar because they will be looking at words they’ve already read – and hopefully this gives students a connection.
Students will understand that what they read is what they study in grammar. Plus, this is the suggestion from the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).
NCTE includes this idea in their Guidelines about Grammar:
People associate grammar with errors and correctness. But knowing about grammar also helps us understand what makes sentences and paragraphs clear and interesting and precise. Grammar can be part of literature discussions, when we and our students closely read the sentences in poetry and stories. And knowing about grammar means finding out that all languages and all dialects follow grammatical patterns.
For years I’ve approached grammar from the viewpoint that it is more than practice and review – it is a part of what students normally do in their English classes. (To get to that point, we often have to do practice and review, but I always let students know we are working toward this goal).
Students appreciate studying grammar and language from what they are already studying.
What are Mentor Sentences from Grammar?
How could you implement mentor sentences in your class? How can you practice grammar in the context of the literature you read? Hopefully, teachers can personalize the idea for all of their classes – for students’ needs. Here are ideas though:
- Sometimes the grammar mentor sentences practice comes in the form of sentences chosen ahead of time from literature. Choose the sentences, present them to the class, and study a specific grammatical concept, such as different types of conjunctions.
- Choose specific words. Looking at published authors’ words shows students that a knowledge of grammar enhances their writing. Writing and speaking with a knowledge of language makes them powerful.
- Ask students to choose sentences! Give them the power. Have students choose a sentence and deconstruct it (look at parts of speech, parts of a sentence, types of sentences, etc.), OR have students choose a sentence knowing in advance the grammar tool they will be analyzing.
Of course, this requires a piece of writing and maybe pencil and paper. If you are wanting organizers specific to grammar mentor sentences, I have a free set ready for you. That set works well for identifying grammatical parts of sentences.
If you want application of grammar to writing, I have another free set for you.
Students still need a basic knowledge of grammatical terms and their definitions. Students may need practice identifying and recognizing word patterns, sentences, and locations. Hopefully, the practice of using mentor sentences in addition to basic understanding involves students. Higher order thinking skills can especially work with mentor sentences.
As I teach books numerous times, I add to the my grammar mentor collections. Many of my bundles contain too many activities for realistically teaching to one class. This perfectly allows teacher to adjust to students’ needs. Since I add to these products, the updates will be yours forever – and free.
As grammar has returned to the classroom, teachers have a unique opportunity to show students that grammar is not boring, that grammar needn’t be feared. Mentor sentences can help teachers accomplish that – can show students that when they read, they are naturally studying grammar.