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  • Writer's pictureJulie Branstetter

"Brans-Hand" Parts of Speech Tool

This simple tool can be used to teach your children how to most easily locate foundational parts of speech in a sentence. It is not exhaustive, but foundational because if you cannot locate these parts of speech in a sentence, there isn't much else beyond that you will be able to identify.

I recognized that we personally had a need for something that my daughter could rely on every time she began to divide up her sentences into parts of speech because she had a very hard time initially determining which noun the sentence was about, so finding the subject was difficult for her. In her young simple mind, if the noun was in the sentence, then the sentence was somewhat about that noun, but of course that doesn't make it the subject of the sentence.

Take this simple sentence for example. "Margaret tosses the ball to her puppy."

The subject of this sentence is "Margaret" because the verb is "tosses". So when we locate the subject we also have to identify the verb at the same time because we have to confirm they those two words are married within the sentence. Margaret cannot be the subject unless she is performing the action of the sentence. In our case, my daughter would simply say, "The sentence is about Margaret, the ball and the puppy, so how can I tell which noun is the subject?" Simply telling her to find the noun that the sentence is about to locate the subject was not enough. She needed to understand that she has to identify the verb at the same time and then choose the noun that performs the action of the sentence to locate the correct noun for the subject part of speech. We like to refer to the subject and verb being "married." I often say to "find the subject/verb combination." Locating both of these parts of speech is one whole step in the process because they depend on each other. So this is where the building of this tool began, because as the sentences became more compound and complex, the more difficult it was to identify such simple parts. So the five step process being done in order breaks down the sentence and simplifies locating the right parts of speech for each word and eventually, phrases.

As simple as this sounds to some, it can be very confusing for beginners, and if you have a beginner that stresses out when they become confused, you realize you need to simply things a bit for them so they can rely on something that always works. A tool that can be memorized that helps guide them through each sentence helps to get them over that hurdle so they can practice working through various levels of sentence structure. The more they use it the better they are at the whole process.

So I simplified the foundation down to the five fingers on one hand. As she learned what each finger stood for and how to find each part of speech in order from 1-5, it became easier and easier to break the sentence down so that when she got to the more difficult parts of speech to identify, she was left with a minimum of words in the sentence. It is much more clear to understand what the left over words are and what they modify, when you only have a couple of options left.

This tool works through finding prepositional phrases and conjunctions, the subject and verb combination, identifying the verb, identifying direct and indirect objects or predicate nouns and adjectives, and finally differentiating between adjectives and adverbs and the words they modify. Once you can do this well, then identifying phrases and what they modify makes far more sense.

This is a great initial tool for grades 3-7 to use. By the time they are on 7th grade level, these concepts should flow pretty easily. You definitely need to conquer being able to identify these parts of speech easily before you more on to more complicated grammar lessons.

I hope, if you are struggling with this, that this tool might help you as well.

If you'd like the 5 step process explained a little more, download these details here.

Also, you can download a word list here, to help build a variety of sentences for your child to practice.

Julie Branstetter

"Brans-Hand" Parts of Speech Memory Tool

Copyright, 2013

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