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Ideas for Targeting Complex Sentences in Literacy-Based Therapy

Updated: May 26

After working on activities that focus on vocabulary and semantic skills, the next step in the literacy-based therapy framework is to target syntactic and grammatical skills.

One syntactic skill you may want to target is complex sentences.

Here are 🌟 8 fun ideas 🌟 for working on creating complex sentences!

1️⃣ Look for and read examples of the target sentences in the book with the student.

2️⃣ Write the noun and verb phrases, or clauses, on sentence strips that the student can manipulate to create one complex sentence.

3️⃣ Have the student draw pictures that represent the clauses. Match the clause strips with the pictures. Then have students combine them to create one complex sentence.

4️⃣ Retell the story or parts of the story with the target sentence pattern.

5️⃣ Try creating sentences using the structure: when + what happened

6️⃣ Ask a question that would prompt the student to create a sentence about the story with the target sentence structure/grammar. You may want to provide a sentence starter.

Here are some starting ideas:

  • After = later on

  • Although = shows surprise or the opposite of what’s expected

  • As = at the same time or because

  • When = at a certain, the same, or later time

  • While = during, although

  • Until = a different idea, up to a certain time/event

  • Before = an earlier time

  • Because = a reason

  • If = a possibility (under this condition)

  • Since = gives a reason, from that time on

  • Unless = an exception

Here's an example targeting complex sentences using "after":

  •  SLP: What did Froggy do after he went kayaking? After kayaking, Froggy…(sentence starter)

  •  Student: After kayaking, Froggy went stargazing.

Continue with similar question types and sentence starters (as needed) to elicit the target sentence structure. For example:

  •  What did Froggy do after he got dressed?

  •  What did Froggy do after he cooked breakfast?

  •  What did froggy do after he went hiking?

7️⃣ Provide students with two sentences and ask them to combine them into one amazing sentence. Let students know can be more than one way to combine them. Students can create sentences orally and/or write them down.

8️⃣ Create complex sentences using character dialogue. Look at pictures with characters and have students create sentences based on what they think the character may be stating or asking.

Hope this has been helpful! 😊

about the author Sarah. Sarah is a pediatric SLP and the creator of Speechie Adventures.


Ukrainetz, T. A. (2006). Contextualized Language Intervention: Scaffolding Prek-12 Literacy Achievement (1st ed.). Pro Ed.


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