The Importance of Answering Questions in Complete Sentence

Six Young Pupils Writing on Notebooks in Classroom

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In language arts lessons, elementary school students learn that writing allows them to communicate ideas. But to do it effectively, they must understand the essential elements of good writing. This begins with sentence structure and unambiguous language that readers can easily comprehend.

Some young students can find writing laborious. So, they often subconsciously rely on clipped answers in response to a writing prompt. For example, in a getting-to-know-you exercise at the beginning of the school year, you may ask your students to write answers to a few questions: What is your favorite food? What is your favorite color? What kind of pet do you have? Without instruction, the answers will likely come back as pizza, pink, or dog.

Explain the Importance

Now you can demonstrate to your students how, without context, those answers could mean something different than the writer intended. For instance, pizza could be the answer to any number of questions, such as: What did you have for lunch? What food do you hate? What food does your mother never let you eat?

Teach students to answer questions in complete sentences to add detail and accuracy to their writing. Show them how to use keywords in the question itself as a cue when formulating their answer. Teachers refer to this technique as "putting the question in the answer" or "turning the question around."

In the example, the one-word statement "pizza" becomes a complete sentence, and a full thought, when the student writes, "My favorite food is pizza."

Demonstrate the Process

Write a question on the board or an overhead projector for students to see. Begin with a simple question such as, "What is the name of our school?" Make sure the students understand the question. With first graders, you may need to clarify, whereas older students should get it right away.

Then, ask students to identify the keywords in this question. You can help the class target them by asking the students to think about what information the answer to the question should provide. In this case, it's "the name of our school."

Now demonstrate to students that when you answer a question in a complete sentence, you use the keywords you identified from the question in your answer. For example, "The name of our school is Fricano Elementary School." Make sure to underline "the name of our school" in the question on the overhead projector.

Next, ask students to come up with another question. Assign one student to write the question on the board or overhead and another to underline the keywords. Then, ask another student to come up and answer the question in a complete sentence. Once students get the hang of working in a group, have them practice independently with a few of the following examples or with questions they come up with on their own.

Practice Makes Perfect

You can use the following examples to guide your students through skills practice until they get the hang of using complete sentences to answer a question.

What is your favorite thing to do?

Answer: My favorite thing to do is ...

Who is your hero?

Answer: My hero is ...

Why do you like to read?

Answer: I like to read because ...

Who is the most important person in your life?

Answer: The most important person in my life is ...

What is your favorite subject in school?

Answer: My favorite subject in school is ...

What is your favorite book to read?

Answer: My favorite book to read is ...

What are you going to do this weekend?

Answer: This weekend, I'm going to ...

What do you want to do when you grow up?

Answer: When I grow up, I want to ...