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Sentence Maker

What is a sentence maker?

The colour coded sentence maker is a visual means of structuring sentences by colour coding different parts of speech and ordering on a base board. It uses question words to elicit the component parts of a sentence.

Sentence maker - who, doing, what

The sentence maker can be used to

  • Structure and order words in a sentence through the use of colour coding
  • Extend the amount of information in a sentence and help children and young people who miss out words in a sentence
  • Encourage development from 1 to 2 key word sentences and 2 to 3 key word sentences
  • Develop sentences from key words only to full sentences with correct grammar
  • Develop understanding of question words such as Who? What? Where?
  • Support the development of vocabulary
  • Support the development of free writing
  • Build use of other people’s names and help build social connections

It can be used for basic SVO (Subject-Verb-Object) sentences or more complex sentences. Sentences can be recorded by symbols stuck onto the board and or the written word.

SVO is one of the core language structures that we use in English, so teaching the SVO structure helps children and young people (CYP) to learn how to make a wide range of their own sentences. Some children and young people may not use spoken language at first, so using photos and symbols can help them to express the same meanings and provide them with a means of communication.

Colour coding

Colour coding works by helping children and young people learn the roles different words have in a sentence. The sentence maker board is divided into three parts.

  • ‘who’ words (subject) are blue – this can be a person, animal, cartoon character etc.
  • ‘doing’ words or action words (verb) are orange.
  • ‘what’ words (object) are yellow – this could be an object or ‘thing’.

Responses to ‘who?’, ‘doing?’, ‘what?’ questions are put in the appropriate coloured space.

sentence maker base board - who, doing, what

Which level should I begin with?

How sentence makers are used varies on the language level of the child or young person.

We generally work through the following levels when teaching key words:

  • Verbs
  • Subject-verb
  • Verb-object
  • Subject-verb-object
  • Longer sentences

Your speech and language therapist will be able to inform you of the level your child or young person is currently working at.

Below is an example of the different levels and how they can be adapted using the same picture.

dinosaur

dinosaur subject verb object example

How are sentence makers used?

2 key words

This is divided into two sections – ‘who’ and ‘doing’. Talk about what you and your child can see on the picture first then you say the sentence e.g. “girl painting” then find the appropriate visual support card, for example, baby, boy, girl in the blue cards which have the person on and put onto the ‘who’ box and then find the appropriate verb card, for example, painting in the orange cards and put into the ‘doing’ box.

girl painting subject verb

Once you have placed all the symbols in the correct boxes you would repeat the sentence back to them. Point to the boxes as you say the sentence. You can also include the appropriate little words (function words) in this example to make it grammatically correct, for example, ‘The girl is painting’.

You can support your child or young person by offering a choice, for example, ‘The girl is… hmmm is she eating or painting?’ You can step up or step down your support depending on how they respond.

3 key words

Repeat the steps for two key words but add in what the person is doing, which are the yellow visual support cards, for example, bike, teeth.  Say the sentence with your child pointing to the boxes each time.

boy eating apple subject verb object

After several modelling sessions, you may find that the child or young person you are working with reaches for the symbols and starts to place them on the sentence strip independently.

Eventually with practice they will get to the stage of being able to say a sentence about the picture without having to stick the visual support pictures on.

Ways to practice using the sentence maker

Your speech and language therapist may have given you some pictures and symbols to use with your child or young person. Other ways to use sentence makers include:

  • With books – choose pictures from books and use the sentence maker to talk about what’s happening.
  • Photos – use photos of your child or young person. Use the sentence maker to talk about what they are doing.
  • In written work – you can use the sentence maker as a writing frame to support literacy skills. You could underline the different parts of the sentence with the sentence maker colours.
  • With communication mats – you can use the sentence maker colours within a larger communication mat as part of the home or classroom environment.

 

Additional resources and information

Using Sentence Makers

A training video for parents, carers and teaching staff that explains and demonstrates how to use sentence makers at a 2 and 3 key word level – ‘who doing’ and ‘who doing what’.

Time: 9 minutes

Download the sentence maker resources below:

2 key word level – ‘who doing’

sentence maker people who doing

sentence maker people doing what

sentence maker animals who doing

3 key word level – ‘who doing what’

sentence maker who doing what board

sentence maker animals who doing what

sentence maker disney princesses who doing what

Please contact your speech and language therapist for additional resources.

Using Sentence Makers across the day

A training video on how to use the Sentence Maker across the school day.

Time: 17 minutes

Contact us

For more information please contact the Speech and Language Therapy Service at Flockton House on 0114 226 2333.

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Disclaimer

Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: SL88

Resource Type: Article

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