Reading Room – February 2023

Tips and Tricks: Syntax

This month we will be discussing syntax, one of the primary components of Structured Literacy. What is syntax, why do we need it, and tips on how to teach it.

According to David Kilpatrick, author of “Equipped for Reading Success”, knowledge of syntax is firmly correlated to improved reading comprehension. Students with syntactic knowledge and familiarity score higher on assessments of reading comprehension than do students who don’t. They also tend to be better writers. Students who don’t have explicit knowledge may confuse statements with questions. They may mix up tenses and use improper suffixes, thereby making their reading comprehension poor and their writing confused.

ANAGRAMS – Use index cards with one word on each card from a predetermined sentence.  Mix up the cards and have the students put the cards in order so that the sentence makes sense.  Depending on the age and skill level of your students you may have to start with very simple sentences and work your way up to more complex ones.  You may also have to do a lot of modeling with students. A fun modification would be to divide students into teams and make this a bit competitive.

SENTENCE COMPLETION ACTIVITIES – Start with the beginning of a sentence and have students complete it.

Ex. – Today I went….. The weather is beginning to……..

When doing this, you can also point out parts of speech, and with older students, you can discuss clauses and sentence types.

SENTENCE COMBINING & SENTENCE REDUCTION ACTIVITIES – Provide students with a variety of phrases and clauses and have them combine these elements to make more complex sentences.  The reduction activity would be just the opposite.  Have students look at complex sentences and then pull them apart to make simple sentences.  Again, you may have to model with your students until they get the hang of it.

TENSE WORK – Make three columns on the board or paper with the following headings: 

PAST                                                 PRESENT                                                    FUTURE

Give students a list of verbs and discuss what ending goes under which heading.  Often when adding suffixes to words you will have to double the last consonant or drop the ending e to add a vowel suffix, but this can generate rich discussions about spelling rules.


Syntactic Awareness:  Teaching Sentence Structure

Teaching Sentence Awareness – Joan Sedita

Grammar VS Syntax:  What’s the difference? Allison Bressmer

Types of Sentences & Sentence Structure – Color Coding Grammar in Sentences

For questions, please contact:

Chris Fox –, Jessica Powell –

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