This week, my students are learning about dependent and independent clauses for the first time. I never know how hard it will be for students to grasp a new concept, especially in grammar. They seemed to do well with compound sentences, so we moved right into complex sentences.
There are times when I plan out activities for lessons, and there are times I completely teach on the fly. In my experience, the planned stuff tends to bomb more often than my improv. I don't think I had any plan for complex sentences except to go over the definitions and see if they could figure it out from there.
The main thing they need to know is that dependent clauses cannot stand alone while independent clauses can. When they are combined, they form a complex sentence. However, there's another rule that I was sure would throw them off. If the dependent sentence comes first, there has to be a comma to separate the clauses. There is no comma if the independent clause comes first.
How is a fourth grade student supposed to remember all this and be able to apply it?
As I was teaching, I decided to draw a character on the interactive board. I wrote a D on his shirt, and I gave him a Santa hat. He was Danny Dependent Clause. I, of course, then drew Izzy Independent Clause. Each of them had SP on their hats because they both have subjects and predicates, but Danny also had several flags in his hand. On each flag was a subordinate conjunction (when, after, before, if, ...).
I then told the story. Poor Danny is dependent and he absolutely cannot stand alone! He must have Izzy! Poor guy! He had a sad face. Izzy had a happy face. She was independent! She could stand alone if she needed to! Whenever she leads him, they are happy and complete. But if he leads, he needs the help of a comma to get her to follow because she'd rather be alone. Either way, when they go on dates, things get "complex."
It was the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard, but the kids got it. I was amused by my own silliness. So far, the kids have been very good at finding the I/D clauses. Tomorrow is the quiz, so we'll see how it goes. I'm a bit nervous because they seem to bomb whenever I have high hopes!