Manipulating Sentences to Reinforce Grammar Skills

9 - 12
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
45 minutes
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In this lesson, students manipulate sentences from books or magazines that they are reading in class to learn grammar in context and review grammar rules. Students learn how to modify the meaning of a sentence with antonyms and enhance the meaning of a sentence with synonyms. They also examine prepositions, adverbs, adjectives, and other parts of speech. This lesson assumes that students have basic knowledge of verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and other sentences elements.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

  • Grammar study need not be dependent on prefabricated "correct" sentences; passages from books can be used to point out and teach grammar skills to young writers.

  • By framing the study of grammar within the meaningful context of text, grammatical structures such as dialogue and use of tense become writers' tools in the minds of students, rather than simply material to be learned for a test.

  • By surrounding ourselves with and immersing ourselves in quality writing, teachers can talk with students about grammar and usage in an enjoyable way that will encourage students to apply the principles to their own writing.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Identify the parts of speech within a sentence

  • Discuss the meaning of a sentence based on the context

  • Understand how word choice can affect both the mood and the meaning of a sentence

  • Reinforce their knowledge of dictionary and thesaurus uses

Instruction and Activities

1. To prepare students for this lesson, conduct a brief review of the parts of speech. Ask students to define each of the major parts of speech as a class on the blackboard.

2. Tell the class that there is more than one way to learn grammar. Students can learn it either in isolation by diagramming sentences or copying sentences from a book, or through an investigation of the literature that they are already reading. Throughout the lesson, they will change various parts of a sentence, culminating in a complete rewrite of the sentence.

3. Distribute two copies of the Manipulating Sentences handout to each student. Read aloud the passage from The Island Keeper by Harry Mazer, and discuss students' impressions of the first few characters that are introduced. Even though they will not read this novel, students can check for meaning by making predictions about the plane trip, characters, and future events in the story.

4. As a class, ask students to choose one sentence from the passage that they would like to manipulate, and write the sentence on the handout.

5. Ask students to isolate the parts of speech in the sentence by writing down the nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. If students need help categorizing the words, form small groups to review each part of speech and then look for the words in the sentence.

6. Ask the class to brainstorm lists of adjectives, adverbs, and verbs that retain (synonyms) or change (antonyms) the meaning of the sentence. Then, following the instructions on the handout, have each student write two sentences using different words-one with a similar meaning and one with a different meaning. Students can use their personal thesaurus or dictionary to search for words to use in their writing. If time permits, ask volunteers to read their new sentences to the class and encourage students to discuss how these new sentences differ from the original.

7. Divide the class into small groups of three or four students each. Lead a class discussion to help students see how word choice can make a sentence interesting or very dull.

8. To further illustrate this point, have each small group choose a quotation from The Quotations at Bartleby. Ask each group to find a quotation that is interesting to them, and write it on the second Manipulating Sentences handout. Alternately, have each group of students select a sentence for manipulation from their personal reading material or another assignment, to further reinforce the fact that grammar skills can be picked up naturally from sources outside of their language arts textbook.

9. Following the steps on the Manipulating Sentences handout, the groups should manipulate their quotations by changing the words. Encourage students to use online resources such as and to help them manipulate their quotations.

10. Groups should list the steps they used to manipulate their quotations. Have each group explain to the class their quotation and the steps they followed to change the quotation's wording and meaning.

11. Lead a class discussion about the process. Encourage students to discuss any hardships they encountered when rewriting the quotations.


  • Repeat this lesson on an individual basis as a Daily Oral Language (DOL) activity. Ask students to bring in books they are currently reading and complete this activity with their texts.

  • In each DOL activity, focus on one part of speech only. For example, have students change all the verbs in a paragraph.

  • Have students share their own writing to see if other students can manipulate the words to enhance or create new sentences.

  • Have students write poems, using words from a passage that expresses the same feelings or ideas.

  • Start a vocabulary project in which students keep track of words they learned while manipulating sentences.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Circulate the room during the individual and group work to make sure that students are replacing nouns with nouns, adjectives with adjectives, and so on. You may also want to collect the Manipulating Sentences handouts periodically to check students' work.

  • Use the Sentence Manipulation Rubric to evaluate each student's ability to manipulate sentences and his or her understanding of basic grammar rules.