Sentence Structure Skills in English Teaching

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  Sentence Structure Skills 

The aim of teaching English is to enable the students to express themselves correctly in writing on everyday matters of life. This requires proficiency in structural skills, which is obtained by ample practice. The students should be able to express their ideas in the following written forms:

(1) To describe events and narrate incidents.

(2) To describe scenes and shows.

(3) To write reports of conversation.

(4) To write letters and applications.

(5) To organize ideas in their proper sequence,

      It is a very difficult skill and requires great practice under the guidance of a good teacher.

Guided and Free Composition

               Composition is of two types-

(1) Guided composition

(2) Free composition

       (1) Guided Composition-Guided composition is a technique of controlled writing in language learning. In it, the students are presented with controlled situations by providing them with certain ideas, structures and words. They are given full hints about the topic of the composition, main points and their arrangement. Sometimes, guiding words are also given beforehand. In such a guided composition, the students are to follow teacher’s instructions and suggestions.

Guided composition is not a strictly controlled composition. In it, the students use their own choice ih the construction of sentences and composition of ideas. But in controlled composition, the students are not given choice in the construction of sentences and arrangement of ideas. Guided composition is a kin to free composition than composition than controlled composition.

       (2) Free Composition-In free composition, the student is free to use any structure and vocabulary accordi.rlg to his choice. He has full freedom to choose his words, sentences, and ideas. However, the teacher can help the students in making an outline of ideas.

       Each of these types of composition has its own place and utility. In English composition, the general pattern followed is that the students are given practice in guided composition at the first stage. Free composition usually follows an extensive practice of guided composition for several years. If introduced early, it harms the average students.

Dangers of free composition at early stage

       Generally, the teacher does not take pains  in guiding the student in composition work. He gives them the topics and asks them to write their own composition on that topic, but the method has the following dangers and pitfalls:

       (1) The students at this stage have not mastered the use of words and sentence structures for free composition. The result is that their sentences are full of language mistakes, which get drilled and fixed through repetition.            ·

       (2) The students are discouraged when their attempts are returned to them af ter correction. The;r feel ashamed at their frequent mistakes.

       (3) There is great discouragement for the teacher also. He finds himself unable to do the heavy correction work and perform the heavy remedial work.

       (4) The students are not encouraged to do practice work despite knowing that they will commit many mistakes.

       (5) The students if let free to do composition work are likely to compose their ideas in the mother tongue and then translate them into English. This will lead them to a faulty structure of English.

       So there are many dangers of introducing free composition at an early stage. For the first four or five years, the students should be asked to do practice in guided composition only. Free composition should follow after several years of practice in guided composition.

Stages for teaching composition

      The students should be taught composition in various stages. Their first attempt should not be a long and connected piece of composition. It should rather be a simple arrangement of a few sentences.

      The following steps (stages) are suggested in guided composition-

       (1) Copying models-The students should begin with copying sentences which they thoroughly know. The teacher may write a model sentence on the black-board.

       (2) Dictation-Dictation is a useful exercise in guided composition. It helps to improve the spellings and pronunciations of the students. Students also pick up speed in writing, because they have to write at the speed of the dictated word. It also provides practice in note taking.

       (3) Simple language exercise-Simple language exercises can help much in the expression of ideas. Some of these exercises can be completion of sentences, arranging jumbled sentences is sequence, writing parallel sentences, writing answers to questions and filling in the blanks.

      (4) Reproduction exercises-Reproduction means reproducing from a situation or reproducing a picture composition. It can also be reproducing a story or a dialogue. In it a small piece of composition is given to the students and they are asked to write their own composition on the model of the given composition. It helps the students in sentence construction and expression of ideas.

Teaching free composition

       The aim of teaching composition is to enable the students to express their ideas correctly and creatively on topics within the range of their experience. The methods adopted generally by our English teachers are defective. They give a topic for composition to the students and ask them to come prepared for writing composition on that topic in the school. The students mostly do cramming work on that topic and try to satisfy the teacher by their cramming power.  other method adopted by the teacher is to write down the whole piece of composition on the black-board and ask the students to copy it in their exercise books.

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This is nothing more than spoon-feeding and destroys creativity in the students.

       In order to enable the students to write good composition, the following suggestions should be followed:   

       (1) The topic should be specific rather than general and related to the interests and experiences of the students.

       (2) Oral composition should precede written composition.

       (3) Certainty and individuality should be encouraged.

       (4) The best attempts should find their way in the wall magazine or the school magazine.

The following types of  free composition  may be Practiced 

       (1) Paragraphs-The students should be asked to write a paragraph on a topic of interest. The teacher can suggest some key words on that topic.

       (2) Descriptive or narrative pieces of composition-The students may be asked to write two or three paragraphs describing a certain place or a scene or person. They can also be asked to narrate an account of an even t or incident which they have observed or experienced. Biographical composition is also included in this type.

       (3) Dialogue-It is an interesting form of free composition. A dialogue may first be enacted in the class room followed by writing it by the students.

       (4) Letters and applications-The students should be given practice in writing personal and impersonal letters i.e. letters to relatives and friends and business or official letters. Writing of application should be mostly devoted to applications to the head master or principal of the school. Some practice can also be given is writing applications to officers such as deputy commissioners etc.

       (5) Stories-Story writing is an important form of free composition. A story ma y be introduced by the teacher by showing a series of pictures in the class room. The teacher can help the students in writing a story by asking a series of questions also. He can also give them an outline of the story. He may write the outline of the story, along with key words, on the black-board. He can also write an incomplete story on the black-board and ask the students to complete it.

       (6) Summarisation-Preparing short summaries of the reading matter is another exercise in composition. It is an excellent introduction to free expression. The student learns the skill of selecting important Sentences and linking them together.

Correction of composition

      The work of correcting written  composition though a laborious one is very important.

       To begin with only the more glaring errors in grammar and spelling may be brought to the notice of the pupils and over-correction should be avoid using red ink by the teacher is discouraging.

       In a large class having more than fifty students, the pupils should be trained in the work of self-correction And Correction Work. This can be done by the use of a few conventional signs which indicate the nature of error. It will promote individual effort and put the pupil on the right track. Suitable correction symbols are as follows. The students should be fully informed about them.

s              Spelling error

D             Omission

A             Article

p             Punctuation

G             Grammar

w            Wrong Word

T              Tense

?              Truth of statement questioned

z              Irrelevant

       The teacher can, however, use his own symbols if he likes to do so. The teacher should note the general mistakes and discuss them in the class, using the black-board. The teacher’s job is not only to spot errors but also to offer suggestions for further improvement in the skill of composition work.

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