Rules are sometimes made to be broken, though, right? Writers break the complete sentence rule all of the time, using fragments to their advantage.
When I began reading Eileen Spinelli's The Best Story, I noticed fragments. Plenty of them. (Whoops. There's one of my own.)
Use Spinelli's book with your students, giving them a closer look at fragments. Start by reading the story together, being reminded that the best stories we write come from our hearts.
Okay, now for some grammar in context. Look at page 2.
I ran home.
Went to my room.
Shut the door.
I sharpened five pencils.
Opened my notebook to a brand-new page.
And all I could think was this writing stuff was hard and lonely.
Maybe I needed help.
Test Mr. Morton's lesson with two-word sentences here, finding the subjects and predicates.
Now return to Spinelli's text. Look at the first line. Is there a subject? Yes. Is there a verb? Yes. It passes the test.
How about the second line. Is there a subject? No. What subject can we add to make it a sentence?
Continue through each line, writing the revised sentences line by line as Spinelli does.
When you are finished, compare the two lists. What do your students think? Why do they think Spinelli chose to use fragments instead of complete sentences?
Now revise the first eight lines, linking them with commas, so they are all part of one longer sentence. How does it compare to the other two lists? Which one do they prefer?
Read the story a second time, pausing at fragments and discussing how to "fix" them.
Bonus: Look at page one, where it says "Write the best story. Win first prize." Discuss with your student whether these are fragments or sentences.
A Second Bonus: Do you remember teachers telling you never to begin sentences with and, but, or so? Maybe Spinelli is rebelling against language arts teachers or something because most of her sentences start with one of these three conjunctions. Again, discuss why she may have chosen to do this. How would the text sound if these words were eliminated?
A Little More Practice: If your student tends to use fragments unintentionally, pull out some of her pieces to analyze and revise. If your student has sentence sense, ask him to sprinkle a couple of fragments in an assignment to see if he likes the effect.
Gopher sentences come from Steps to Writing Well by Jean Wyrick.