Conjunctions: The Tie That Binds

Am I the only one who hears, “Conjunction Junction, what’s your function? Hooking up words…” every time someone mentions conjunctions? As we all know, conjunctions are the words that hold our sentences together, the tie that binds words, phrases, and clauses into compound and complex sentences. Since my beginning level students often struggle to choose the correct conjunction (and, but, or, so), I decided to make a fun practice activity.

The Tie That Binds: Conjunctions is a set of 48 simple sentences that can be combined using one of the four main conjunctions (and, but, so, or). I wanted this activity to be versatile and we have five (six if you count the new digital version) different ways of using these cards.

Scoot Recording Sheet

Scoot: I designed the activity so the 48 sentences can be printed as 24 task cards with a pair of sentences on each card (see image in physical sort version below), or as 48 task cards with one sentence per card (cut the dotted line between the sentences). When we do this activity as a scoot, I pass out the 24 task cards with two sentences on each. Students then read the two sentences and, on their recording sheets, write a single sentence that uses a conjunction to combine the original sentence pair. This is particularly good practice for slightly more advanced students since they actually need to combine the sentences, deciding which words to keep and/or leave out. Less proficient students can simply write the conjunction they would use to combine the sentences, rather than the entire new sentence.

Physical Sort

Physical Sort: To do a physical sort, all students are given a set of 24 task cards, each with two sentences on them. Each group of 4-6 students is also given four containers labeled AND, BUT, OR, SO (paper plates or small plastic baskets work well). Students then read the sentence pairs and place each task card into the basket representing the conjunction that would best combine them. Pro tip: print each set of cards on different color cardstock, this allows you to quickly sort out the different sets of cards after multiple students toss them into the same baskets.

Four Corners

Four Corners: In this activity the students do all of the moving. I place a large conjunction sign in each corner of the classroom. I then read out the two sentences from a single task card (for lower proficiency students I also put the card on the document camera and display the sentences on the board for them to read along with). Students then move and stand in the corner representing the conjunction that would best combine the sentences. The final step is to ask for a volunteer to verbally combine the two sentences using the correct conjunction.

Response Cards

Response Cards: This version of the activity is a great way to quickly assess the entire class’ use of the four conjunctions without having to look at individual papers or worrying about students simply following the crowd (as in four corners). I give each student a set of four cards (as pictured here). I then read/display a task card with two sentences on it. Students hold up the card with the best conjunction to combine the two sentences. This works best if you tell students not to hold up their card until you give the signal. Read the sentences, wait a few seconds, then give the signal. The wait time gives students time to think and make a decision, rather than just look at what card everyone else is holding up and follow suit. This can also be done using whiteboards: students can either write the correct conjunction on the board or write a single sentence that combines the original two.

Match & Join

Match & Join: My favorite way to do this activity takes a bit more planning, but it visually reinforces the idea that conjunctions join two sentences together. To prepare, I cut the task cards into 48 cards with a single sentence on each and punched a single hole into each card. I then created my conjunction rings by printing the conjunctions on address labels, wrapping them around binder rings, and sticking them together to form a flag. I gave each student (or pair of students, depending on numbers) a set of sentence cards and a supply of conjunction rings. Students then matched the sentences (a numbered sentence with an unnumbered sentence) and used the correct conjunction ring to bind them together. This version was the most work for me to create, but it is a lot of fun and the physical representation helps to reinforce the purpose of conjunctions.

Digital Task Cards

Digital Version: As with just about every other activity I’ve ever used, I needed a digital version for this past year. Since there was no way to get physical materials to my students I decided on a set of self-grading digital task cards (directions for making your own in this post). Each “card” has the two sentences, two pictures (one for each sentence), and a combined sentence that is missing its conjunction. Students type the conjunction into the indicated cell and it is automatically added to the answer sheet at the end. The answer sheet (can be hidden) is conditionally formatted to grade the answers and sends the final number/percentage correct to a grade sheet for a quick reference. These digital task cards are available in both Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel formats.

As I said in the beginning, I primarily use The Tie That Binds with my beginning to low intermediate students. When working on conjunctions with my intermediate and advanced students I tend to play Compounding Conjunctions, a board game practicing forming compound sentences with conjunctions (and, but, so, because). I’m really excited to be using these games in person again this semester and am looking forward to hearing what this semester’s group of students thinks about them. Happy teaching, everyone!

Need some of those links again? Here they are: