Expressive Language in Sentences

Putting words together in a planned way to form a sentence is referred to as syntax. Rules govern the order of the words and the way we add segments to add meaning such as adding  (ing) to change a verb tense. Children often have difficulty with subtle changes such as the word “not” making a sentence mean the opposite. More complex sentences can change the meaning depending on the order of the words such as in “I will eat before I brush my teeth” is not the same as “I will brush my teeth before I eat” even though the same words are used. A child has to observe the order.
As stated previously, a child can have difficulties in either receptive language and/or expressive language.  He may understand what is being said and still have trouble expressing himself verbally in sentences. He may have difficulty with the rules as stated above. He could also have trouble synchronizing tongue and lip movements to make the appropriate sounds for words such as with an articulation delay or stuttering. An articulation delay can affect the ability to use correct syntax. If a child can not make the /s/ sound he may not use correct verb tenses or plurals for instance. This could create further difficulty with being understood by a listener.

There are a variety of activities listed below that have been  selected to practice various grammatical forms.  When you click on the title it will bring you to a site that will provide you the materials or a pdf file that can be printed to make cards the size of business cards.  In some cases the cards give  two phrases that involve a sequence. You may read them if your child is a nonreader. The child will put the two phrases together using connecting words such as  before, after, when and while.  In some cases words can be added or the word “it” should be used to avoid duplication in the sentence.  In all activities, the child is striving to make an appropriate sentence that would be used in everyday language.

You may feel free to use any of the activities  for  children on your caseload, in your classrooms, or your individual child.  They are not meant to be  copied for commercial purposes or hijacked to another site.  I would rather you link here.

1. Using before and after sentences in written form (no pictures)

30  before and after with pictures at TPT store

A  trial of 9 cards here  WordPress before and after

2. Using  when and while in sentences to indicate same time.

3. Using which, that, and who in sentences.

4.  Using because in a sentence.  This is the same activity (silly sentences) in the vocabulary section.  Many of the responses require the use of words with the (th) for those working on articulation in sentences.

5.  Making descriptive sentences:  This spinner activity provides practice using more descriptive details in sentences.   This has been updated 3/16/13 and is free at the TPT store.

6.   Go Fish:   This is a source for “Go Fish Cards”.  This game provides  natural speaking opportunities for formulating descriptive sentences, asking questions, using short term memory, and turn taking.

7.   Jeopardy: This is based on the game show.  It focuses on producing wh? + do/does questions. It also forces students to think about descriptive detail of items in the same category.

8.   Paper dolls:  I’ve found that paper dolls are helpful when teaching pronouns.  This site allows for a variety of choices for males and females.

9.   Dominos:   This is a site that allows you to make your own pictured dominos.  I use pictured dominos to work on plurals and the final /s/ in words.

10.  Three Sentence Sequence:   This activity is for students who are able to do the 2 sentence sequences.   It requires the student to hold the sequence in their memory and condense it in to one complex sentence.  This is a prerequisite to getting the main idea or taking notes in class.

This activity was updated August 2013 to include a comprehension component. The cards below are the updated version.

These have pictures:    8   free 3 sentence sequence cards

32 cards at the TPT store:

11.  Idioms of Fortune:  This activity reviews  Idioms or non-literal language.  It is meant to be used like a game show and may be adapted to classroom use.  Any of the cards on this site can be used for the questions or cards can be made as a review of classroom material.

12.   3 words make a sentence (animal theme)

  3 words make a sentence (household theme)

3 words make a sentence (sports theme)

The student is given 3 words with which he can make a sentence.  The difficulty can be increased by using the descriptive spinner in activity #5  and adding adjectives and prepositions to the newly formed sentence.

13.   3 words make a sentence II  (3 syllable words)  The student is given 3 words to make a sentence as in #12.  The words include 3 syllable words that children with articulation delays may have trouble saying.  The vocabulary is appropriate for 4th grade and beyond.

14.   suffix practice These are cards with pictures to elicit the suffixes er, ly, y, and ful. It may take a little longer to load because of the pictures.

15.  Will it Fit in a Jar? A card game to promote the use of comparisons and suffixes er and est.  This game is also posted in the vocabulary section.  The pictures make this download take a little longer.

16.  Why questions :   Cards used to practice answering why questions, make inferences, and elicite sentences with “because”.  Pictures make this download take a little longer.

17.  When questions: Cards used to practice answering when questions.  They can be used to elicite complex sentences using temporal words. Pictures will increase the download time.

18.  Who questions:   Cards used to practice answering who questions, introduce ocupation vocabulary, and elicite adverbial phrases such as (   ________ is a person who___)

19. What questions: Cards used to practice answering what questions and descriptive information.

20.  Where do  and What do question formulation.

21.  How questions: Cards used to answer how questions.  A student can also get practice  using because and or in sentences, looking at more than one perspective, and making comparisons.

22.   Sentence Flip Book 1,    Sentence Flip Book 2: These are cards that have subjects, verbs, and objects.  You can use them as playing cards or attach them at the top to make a flip book.  By flipping the cards up in various sequences you can make a variety of sentences.  I use it for developing subject pronouns, object pronouns and various verb tenses.  There are quite a few irregular verb tenses.  There are 2 files because the upload was too heavy.  I actually put both books together.

23. Storytelling characters:  These are characters and objects you often find in stories.  By adding magnets or velcro to the back they will stick  to a board.

© Cynthia Montalbano and In Spontaneous Speech, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material for commercial purposes without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cynthia Montalbano and In Spontaneous Speech with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



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  2. Bob Blake

    Thank you for this post! It’s very informative! I enjoyed it a lot. Anyway, I found a related website that you might be interested in. It’s about what words can reveal about you. Check it out:

  3. Thank you SO much for this! As a second year grad student, I don’t have a ton of money to go on TPT so I really appreciate the HELPFUL and FREE materials! Your Rock!

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment. I am glad you found useful materials.

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