Grammar Guide: Conjunctions
Hints and resources for grammar remediation that won't leave you bogged down in jargon.
By Elijah Ammen
This is part one of a six-part series that focuses on various grammar topics. Check the Lesson Planet Community each Wednesday for the next installment.
Every time I say the word, “conjunction,” my class spontaneously bursts into a rendition of “Conjunction Junction” from Schoolhouse Rock. Beyond that, they can’t tell me much.
Conjunctions are sometimes overlooked, because writers fixate on the effects of conjunctions. They try to treat the symptoms, like run-on sentences and sentence fragments, rather than avoiding those problems by knowing how to use conjunctions appropriately.
Even worse, we come up with arbitrary "rules" that don't make sense—we just drill them in class rather than explain the underlying principles. We tell writers to never start a sentence with "and" or "because" so that they don't accidentally create sentence fragments. These are short-term solutions. Because we want to teach long-term skills, it's important to explain why you should do each of these things.
The following tips should help you with the basics of conjunctions. This is by no means an exhaustive grammar resource, or even an outline for how to teach the concepts for the first time. These are hints for teaching the most important information and resources for instruction and remediation, along with great resources for pull-out teachers or for bellringers and mini-lessons.
Helpful Hints for Conjunctions
Simple, compound, and complex sentences: This boils down to identifying subjects and verbs. For lower-level learners, you cannot skip steps. Once you have identified subjects and verbs, it's easier to see where those clauses connect. Can both clauses stand on their own, or is one subordinate to the other? Check out this resource for a summary and examples.
Identifying sentence fragments and run-on sentences: For sentence fragments, there are three things that can create a fragment: a missing subject, a missing verb, or a subordinating conjunction without a connecting clause. With run-on sentences, you still need to identify the clauses, but you also need to identify where the missing conjunction should be. Check out this good summary of run-on sentences for more information.
Subordinating vs. coordinating: For coordinating conjunctions, it's easy enough to memorize the FANBOYS list. For subordinating conjunctions, the list is much longer, but the best thing to do is separate the clauses and read them out loud. Does one of the clauses not stand on its own? Show definitions and use practice sentences in this worksheet.
Before you go into practice, it's important to take advantage of different presentations and lesson plans. Most of these presentations have samples that allow whole group practice. Take advantage of these lessons before you move to remediation and independent practice.
- Use the Schoolhouse Rock conjunctions song as a springboard for deeper instruction
- Provide Examples and practice for conjunctions
- Improve writing style by varying sentence types
- Show how compound sentences allow you to reduce repetition in writing
- Avoid run-on sentences, showing this PowerPoint
- Play a Jeopardy game on the eight parts of speech
- Present good and bad examples of using compound sentences
Once you've given your lesson and worked on samples as a whole group, it's time to practice. The more exposure students have, the more likely they are to recognize those issues when they see them on a test.
Try out some of these resources in your class:
- Online quiz on subordinating conjunctions
- Subordinating conjunctions with explanations; fill-in-the-blank questions with a word bank
- Identifying coordinating versus subordinating conjunctions
- Conjunctions and interjections Mad Libs
- FANBOYS coordinating conjunctions practice
- Two types of conjunctions, with practice and an answer key
- Explanation of all the FANBOYS coordinating conjunctions with examples
For countless others, just search for conjunctions on Lesson Planet.