Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Sentence Diagramming for Haptic Learners

A construction worker wheels new bits and pieces of language and diagrams to the work area.
Constructing a "Hands-on" Lesson
According to The Institute for Learning Styles Research, haptic learning "refers to the sense of touch or grasp."  The Institute also offers examples of the traits of haptic learners, such as "Likes a 'hands-on' approach to learning," "Likes to piece things together," and "Is successful with tasks requiring manipulation."

Mostly, it sounds like this type of learner would love art classes, shop classes, home economics, and science labs.  But wait!  Don't count out English and Language Arts for these learners just yet!

With a little art and crafting, sentence diagramming can be a method of language study that, once shaped into lessons, will be engaging for haptic learners.

Planning a "Hands-on" Lesson

The most important idea to remember when gathering materials for teaching sentence diagramming to haptic learners is to make the learning tactile and to find a way to let the students use their hands.  This is more than writing on the board or completing exercises in a notebook or on a computer; it requires the students to "piece things together." What we can do as teachers, then, is to decide what we want the students to learn, then provide either the pieces, or the pieces to make the pieces.

Creative Sentence Diagramming Options

During short lessons, you can provide pieces of diagrams and vocabulary for students to use to create three dimensional diagrams.  For a longer lesson, students could create their own pieces.

For example, in a small space or setting, you could use "Magnetic Poetry" words and magnetic strips on a magnetic white board to create diagrams.  In that case, you could use a set of "Magnetic Poetry" (in your choice of languages), or you could make your own by purchasing magnets and magnetic materials from a craft store.  If the lesson objective is to teach sentence patterns or the parts of a sentence, create "subject," "predicate," "modifier," "phrase," "clause," "complement," and "object."  If the lesson focuses on the parts of speech, create several of those pieces, instead.

Another way to create your diagramming pieces is to use felt and sandpaper.  Felt will stick to sandpaper, so you can cut your long, rectangular shapes for diagramming, pin or glue a variety of words to rectangular shapes, and have students make or create original or given sentence diagrams.

Other materials could include natural items, like sticks or twigs, or malleable materials, like sand, modeling clay, or pipe cleaners.  No matter what you choose to use, be sure to practice a few times on your own to be sure you don't leave out any important supplies (like having a vacuum cleaner on hand if you decide to use sand).


When it comes time to assess student work, the assessment is immediate, as is review and correction when necessary.  Because the work students are completing is in an impermanent state, be prepared to watch the students as they work, checking in with them frequently to get an idea of the success of the lesson.  Assessment results can be documented as the students work, photographed, or more traditional forms of assessment can be used later in the unit.

Want to learn more about diagramming sentences?  
Sentence Diagramming: Diagramming Appositives
Diagramming Sentences for Visual and Kinesthetic Learners
Compound, Complex, and Compound-Complex Sentences

For an in-depth study of sentence diagramming, refer to my text, Diagramming Sentences: A Playful Way to Analyze Everyday Language, or my online course, Sentence Diagramming; From Beginner to Expert in 12 Lessons.  If you want to take my online course, use the coupon code link "Blog" to receive $15.00 off the regular price!

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

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