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Build Oral Language & Writing Skills w/ the SPC!

​The Sentence Patterning Chart has been called the “Blue Ribbon” strategy because of its power and potential. For teachers trained in Be GLAD, here are some fun and interactive activities that you can do with the SPC as a base.

Writing is a critical tool for learning. Through writing, students deepen both their thinking about the content they are learning and increase the use of academic language. The Sentence Patterning Chart, first developed by Marlene and Robert McCracken, is a strategy that deepens students’ understanding and correct usage of various word classes, including adjectives, a noun, a verb, a prepositional phrase, and at times an adverb. Through the process of building the chart, students practice identifying academic vocabulary related to the topic being studied.

Initial Activities

Build the Chart with Students


Start, of course, with building the SPC with your students. Have students brainstorm the various parts of speech or word classes together, add them to the chart, and add color coding and sketching. Once built, use the chart to develop sentences using the syntax of the chart.

Play the Read and Trade Games

Once the chart is built and the students have developed some sentences, play the Read Game. Write the words that students brainstormed on index cards or small pieces of sentence strips, using the same color coding and sketches that you have on the chart. Each team should receive the correct number of words based on the parts of speech or word classes: 2 adjectives (or three if no adverb is included), one noun, one verb, and one prepositional phrase (along with an adverb if this is included). Students then work collaboratively to build a sentence with the cards using the same syntax as that on the chart. They then practice reading and signing the sentence.


For the Trade Game, students will engage in a similar activity. But, this time, when you hand out the cards, give students an incorrect number of cards based on word classes. For example, they may have an extra noun, but no verb. They then must work collaboratively with other teams to “trade” for the word classes or parts of speech that they need. They then build and practice reading and singing the sentence.

Add to the Chart Over time

As an ongoing activity, have students return to the chart and add additional language. They can continue to add on additional awesome adjectives, vivid verbs, precise prepositional phrases or amazing adverbs to the chart to increase vocabulary and richness of the chart.

Intermediate Activities

Revise for Precision

As a class, you can also brainstorm and discuss how to make specific terms more precise, or add nuance to the words on the chart. For example, students may have initially brainstormed "big” as an adjective, but may want to add or even revise that to say “enormous”. Walk could potentially be changed to “trudge,” etc. In addition, you can add a strip of chart paper to focus on building synonyms or antonyms to the chart. This can not only add precision, but also provide instruction on what synonyms and antonyms are and their functions.

The verb can also be adjusted to different tenses. You can work with the students to change the verbs to the present progressive by adding -ing, for example. Because the spelling sometimes changes when you do this, you can use the opportunity to teach students about dropping the final ‘e’ or doubling up a consonant, as appropriate.

In addition, the SPC can then be used for revision in the writing process. For example, have students integrate new adjectives, substitute a particular verb, or add a prepositional phrase to sentences they developed when writing the cooperative strip paragraph.


Advanced Activities

Sentence Variety

The SPC can also be used to change the syntax of sentences. With students up close to the chart, cut the prepositional phrase off of the chart, and move it to the front of the sentence. Show students that the prepositional phrase can be utilized at the front of the sentence. Here, you can also be explicit about how a comma will need to be added. Have students practice reading and writing sentences with this new syntax. By having students compare the sentences with sentences previously written using the original word order, you can engage students in discussions as to which order they prefer for specific sentences and why.

Sentence Complexity

Lastly, use the sentence patterning chart to build complexity in sentences. For example, have students add ‘and’ to two different sentences in order to make a compound sentence. Students may want to adjust the number of adjectives they use to make the sentence more precise or interesting, or they may want to make other adjustments. By adding in the conjunctions, ‘but’, ‘so’, or ‘because’, students add complexity to their sentences. Have students try out a variety of conjunctions and discuss the changes in the meaning of the sentences, how it adds variety to writing and to speech, and how it helps us to be more precise.

Your Turn!

The variety of activities that can be done with the Sentence Patterning Chart truly makes it a versatile and incredibly effective strategy for your students to practice and improve language skills! Try it out with your students!

Blog Author: Erick Herrmann


To watch a video on how to build the initial lesson of the Sentence Patterning Chart, click HERE.


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