Lesson plan

Sentences: Complete or Fragment?

A deeper understanding of what constitutes a complete sentence will help your young writers understand how to create technically correct and more complex sentences. This practice will help students edit and revise their writing.
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Students will be able to identify complete sentences and fragments.

(5 minutes)
  • Review that, in order to be a complete sentence, a sentence needs a subject and a predicate. If a sentence doesn’t have both, it’s a fragment.
  • A complete thought (or complete sentence) has a subject and a predicate. That means you can identify a “who/what” and a “what about it.”
  • Project the example on the top of the worksheet Building Sentences and model finding the subject and predicate.
  • Separate the subject notecards into one pile and the predicate and dependent clause notecards into another pile. Shuffle the second pile so that the clauses and predicates are mixed up.
(15 minutes)
  • Tell students that you are going to take sentence parts and read them together. If they make a complete sentence when combined, students should stand up; if they make a fragment, students stay seated.
  • Have a student select a card from the first pile of subjects. Read it aloud.
  • Have another student select a card from the second pile. Read the subject again with the phrase on the second card as a complete thought.
  • Students who agree that it’s a complete thought, or sentence, stand up. If they believe it’s a fragment, they should remain seated.
  • Discuss each example, asking the questions to identify the subject and predicate.
  • Go through this process again until all of the cards have been used. You may recycle cards after using them and continue to generate other random, silly sentences.
(10 minutes)
  • Have students practice identifying complete sentences with a partner using the sheet Building Sentences.
  • Review the answers together and clarify any confusion.
(10 minutes)


  • Provide subjects and predicates on sentence strips and allow students to manipulate them as sentence building blocks.


  • Have students edit and revise written work of their peers by identifying and helping others fix their fragments.
(5 minutes)
  • Write a fragment on the board. Have students revise the sentence so that it’s complete. As an added bonus, see if they can think of multiple ways to revise it.
(5 minutes)
  • DISCUSS: What happens when a reader comes across a fragment? (Point out that a fragment interrupts comprehension because readers often will go back and reread it, distracting them from the flow of ideas in the text.)

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