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The art of diagramming a sentence...

The art of writing a sentence is a difficult task indeed. When I taught 3rd grade English, the difficulties of explaining the serpentine nature of language were all too apparent. "Alright class, we are going to learn about nouns," I would say, "What is a noun?" The students would dutifully answer "person, place or thing." But that was a far as we got. We never were able to delve into the numerous jobs that the 8 parts of speech perform in a sentence nor how one single modification can change the meaning. The students I teach for the SAT verbal and writing portion requested a more in depth approach to writing an essay. At first I thought that meant just check for whether or not a verb was in the appropriate tense or if there was and agreement issue with nouns. I realized that the syntax of language is as important in an essay as was the vocabulary and content. I wanted to take apart the skeleton of the sentence and see the significance for each part of speech. My students in the SAT classes were very receptive to the idea of learning how to diagram a sentence according to the parts of speech that were present. It would even help them in the verbal/sentence portion of the SAT which can be agonizing in how it presents one or two choices as being so similar in structure. We started out with dividing a sentence by its subject and predicate, then by a noun and article or a verb and preposition. The exercises were difficult at first but as the structure and diagramming became more familiar the process started to get easier. Studying the structure of a sentence has proven to be as enlightening to me as it is for my students.