Teach Your Kids to Eliminate Fragments and Run-ons in Their Writing
A Rare Disease
I saw Bob Pitchfield last Spring. He looked emaciated, face drawn in, eyes sunk. I asked him what was wrong.
He answered, "Because students can't write in complete sentences."
"What?" I replied.
"I'm going home, tomorrow will be better, where are my pills?"
"Come again, Bob"
"Why they use fragments and run-ons."
I found out later that Bob had a rare disease, called Ireadtomanyhorribbleessayswithrunonsandfragmentitas, occurring only in high school English teachers. Luckily, there's a cure: this sentence fragments and run-on sentences lesson plan. Use it now before you end up like Bob.
A critical component of avoiding sentence fragments and run-on sentences is understanding what a correct sentence is and the different types of clauses that make up sentences (see previous lesson plan in the series for a run-down of clause types). Sentences must have at least one subject and one verb and express a complete thought. A sentence fragment is part of a sentence that is punctuated as if it were a complete sentence. They appear in the following forms:
Freestanding Subject or Verb:
Fragment: My dog, Rover.
Corrected: My dog, Rover, eats mice.
Fragment: Before I lost weight.
Corrected: Before I lost weight, I broke the trampoline three times.
Fragment: Encouraging vagabond behavior.
Corrected: I was arrested for encouraging vagabond behavior.
A run-on sentence is two or more complete sentences incorrectly written as one. The most common is called a comma splice, in which two sentences are separated by a comma. Run-on sentences can be corrected in the following ways:
Separate the two sentences with a period:
Run-on: A couple wanted to go green this holiday, they saved the planet.
Corrected: A couple wanted to go green this holiday. They saved the planet.
Join them with a comma and a conjunction:
Corrected: A couple wanted to go green this holiday, and they saved the planet.
Join them with a semi-colon:
Corrected: A couple wanted to go green this holiday; they saved the planet.
Join them with a semi-colon and a conjunctive adverb:
Corrected: A couple wanted to go green this holiday; consequently, they saved the planet.
- Post the above information in a noticeable location.
- Have students take notes on it. I recommend Cornell Notes.
- Instruct students to pick out a piece of writing. Circle any potential sentence fragment or run-on sentence.
- Correct fragments by making sure they have a subject and a verb, and express a complete thought (you may want to review clauses).
- Correct run-ons using the aforementioned strategies.
For practice connecting independent clauses correctly, the following activity works well:
- Choose a topic of interest for students.
- Instruct students to write 2 of each of the following types of sentences:
- two independent clauses connected by a comma and a conjunction.
- two independent clauses separated by a semi colon.
- two independent clauses separated by a semi colon and a conjunctive adverb.