Save the grammar, swap the vocabulary

Students rely on models to help them communicate accurately and effectively.   How often do you see a student’s thesis statement modeled after one in the textbook?   Words are swapped out, but the pattern of the sentence essentially remains the same.

Swapping is a useful learning strategy, and one that can be easily exploited by teachers to present or review grammar rules.   A ‘Sentence Swap’ is a classroom activity teachers can easily create to get their students writing more accurately.

The basic procedure of a Sentence Swap is as follows:

  1. Write 5-6 sentences modeling a grammar rule. The sentences may come from you, your textbook, or an outside source.
  2. Underline the parts of the sentence that students can replace with new content.   Do not underline the phrases that illustrate the grammar rule, for students will be using them.
  3. Ask your students to rewrite the sentence, replacing the underlined ideas with their own.

Below is an example of a Sentence Swap activity used in our advanced grammar course, where students were learning to use participial phrases at the end of sentences.

Screenshot 2016-05-24 11.59.53

Sentence swaps are different from fill-in-the-blank activities, for students are filling in what is around the grammar, not the grammar itself. This scaffolds the grammar just enough so that students can personalize the content and use the constructions accurately and meaningfully.   The goal is that with enough modeling, the patterns will eventually become internalized and used in the future.

For more ideas about using sentences to model grammatical patterns, click here.



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