I began reading If You Give a Dog a Donut by Laura Numeroff and noticed the "if "clause on the first page. On the third page, I saw the "when" clause. Hmmm, I thought, this series might be a good one to teach adverb clauses.

Yeah, I know, "adverb clause" sounds too technical. I prefer calling them AAAWWUBBIS clauses, like Jeff Anderson does in Mechanically Inclined.

What do you need to know about them?

1. They begin with the following words:
although      after      as      when      while      until      before      because      if      since
2. They can occur anywhere in the sentence: beginning, middle, or end.

3. Where there is an adverb clause, there is a comma nearby (two commas if the clause is in the middle of the sentence).

4. They depend on complete sentences. If you write an adverb clause without one, you will end up with a fragment.

Here are examples from two of Numeroff's books:
"If you give a dog a donut, he'll ask for some apple juice to go with it."

"When you give him the juice, he'll drink it all up."

"It will go higher and higher, until it gets tangled in the apple tree."

"While he's waiting, he'll play a quick game of soccer."

To give your students practice with writing and punctuating AAAWWUBBIS clauses, have them write their own series of sentences, each one including a word from the AAAWWUBBIS list. 

Make the task more challenging by having students write their own If You Give... story, mimicking Numeroff's pattern by starting and ending the story at the same place.

Example (Numeroff's writing with my revisions to fit the assignment):
  • If you give a dog a donut, he'll ask for some apple juice to go with it.
  • When you give him the juice, he'll drink it all up.
  • Because he likes it so much, he'll ask for more.
  • Since there won't be any left, he'll want to make his own.
  • He'll go outside to pick apples, after leaving behind a mess.
  • When he's up in the tree, he'll toss you one.

If all of the rules are followed correctly, the goal of the lesson is accomplished.


...if your students want to have their own versions of an If You Give... book, invite them to revise their sentences to make the story flow naturally, since it sounds clumsy to have every sentence structured the same way.