Teaching Complex Sentences II: Lengthy Nouns

In my earlier post on complex sentences, I talked about teaching student to use and understand a variety of conjunctions.  In this post, I’d like to address another area of syntax that can be challenging for students with language impairment: lengthy noun phrases.  Here are some examples of lengthy noun phrases in news stories (noun phrases are pink; verbs are blue):

While Barton was visiting Europe, she worked with a relief organization known as the International Red Cross.

A common April Fools’ prank in Portugal is to throw flour on someone.

After the French and Indian War ended in 1763, the relationship between the Thirteen Colonies and Great Britain began to change

In 1753, the colonial government of Virginia sent a young officer named George Washington into the Ohio River Valley with a letter

The ASHA Webinar A Sentence-Level Framework for Written Intervention recommends that we define such lengthy noun phrases in simple terms.  We should say “a lengthy noun is a noun that has words before it, after it, or both.”  We should also say, “length nouns comes before and/or after verbs.”  Then we should give our students the opportunity to identify the lengthy noun phrases in a sentence (highlighting or underlining works well).  The student should find the verb or verbs first and then look for lengthy nouns that come before or after those verbs.  Using multi-colored highlighters or pens would work best for this exercise to distinguish the verbs from the length nouns.

After the student has identified the noun phrase or phrases, the student should identify the central or main noun in each noun phrase, like so:

While Barton was visiting Europe, she worked with a relief organization known as the International Red Cross.

A common April Fools’ prank in Portugal is to throw flour on someone.

The main/central noun is the noun that is the most important to the meaning and it is the noun with which the verb agrees.  Identifying the central/main noun in these phrases can help our student better understand what the sentence is saying.

Here is a free worksheet to teach students about lengthy nouns and how to identify lengthy noun phrases in sentences.  Hope that this improves your students’ comprehension of complex sentence structure in text!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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