July 7, 2020 / by LiteracyUntangled

Tip Tuesday – Scrambled Sentences

Welcome to Tip Tuesday! This Tuesday we are going to unscramble some scrambled sentences.

I can hear you saying, “Wait. What? How is this related to learning how to read?” Quite simply, reading does not exist on an island all by itself. It is related and connected to the wider world and mechanisms of language: oral, written, and writing. Unscrambling sentences is an excellent way to introduce and reinforce the use of syntax with your child.

What exactly is syntax? The formal definition of syntax is: “the arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences in a language.” But I found when I was in the classroom, the easiest way to teach the concept of was to channel a little of my inner Yoda. For example, I might say to a student “Went to cafeteria, I did.” They might look at me a little funny and then I’d ask them what was wrong. This would launch us in a conversation about syntax and how important it was to talking, reading, and writing. (Of course, we’d have to try and out Yoda each other as well.)

Scrambled Sentences allows students to practice playing with syntax, the concept of complete sentences, and the rules of punctuation and capitalization. This very deceptively simple activity does a lot of heavy lifting towards becoming a better reader and writer!

Scrambled Sentences

What you need:
– an article (I get articles from Newsela), a few pages from a familiar book, a poem, etc.
– blank paper, index cards, card stock, etc.
– sharpie, markers, etc.
– scissors
– envelopes

* Digital options: I use WordWall’s “unjumble” template. You can also create sentence scrambles in Google Slides or PowerPoint.

Choose several sentences from the article. Type or write the sentences out, including punctuation. Then, working with one sentence at a time, cut out each word and punctuation mark so that they all stand on their own. Place each cut out sentence into individual envelopes. Number the envelopes so that the students receive the sentences in an order that matches their appearance in the article.

The object:
To correctly unscramble all of the sentences (watch out for those articles, they can be tricky!)

Number of Players:
1 or more (can play in teams)

How to play:
First, have each player read the article/poem/passage from which the scrambled sentences are taken.* Then, one sentence at a time, provide each player/team the envelope contains the cutout words and punctuation. Players unscramble the words to match words found in the article. To make it more interesting, you can add a timer or have the teams race each other.

*Once the player(s) finish reading the article, keep it nearby in case they get stuck and need to refer back to the article in order to complete the sentence in front of them.

– for beginning readers, choose shorter, less complex sentences.
– when introducing this activity, consider giving your child a visual starting point by making the first word in the sentence bold or by properly capitalizing the first word in the sentence.