Thursday, February 18, 2016

Diagramming Sentences

In the 1950s there were two academic practices which helped me develop analytical thinking skills and which enabled me to write clearly. These practices were diagramming sentences and writing paragraphs. Both were part of the English curriculum at St. Edward School, and the Dominican Sisters were committed to teaching them.

What Is Diagramming Sentences?
Every sentence has two parts, a subject and a predicate. A diagram is a graphic that shows the two parts of a sentence and the relationship of every word in the sentence to either the subject or the predicate. Because sentences vary in length and complexity, so does diagramming a sentence. Diagramming was a fun way to learn the grammatical construction of sentences. It was like solving a puzzle, and went hand in hand with instruction in grammar usage and parts of speech, like nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections.

Diagramming was taught systematically beginning by at least 5th grade and continued until 8th. It was also continued in the freshman year of high school. The textbook series that we used then was Voyages in English, published by Loyola University Press of Chicago. Below are some examples from textbooks of that era.

A Lesson on Types of Sentences: Fifth Grade Textbook

Models of Diagrammed Sentences: Eighth Grade Textbook

Believe it or not, "The Pledge of Allegiance" is one sentence. My dad once diagrammed it for me as proof positiv
e. I took his word that he had done it correctly. The example below, which I found here, shows various versions that are possible.

I have found an example of the Preamble to the Constitution here.

I think learning to diagram sentences was a valuable tool for learning to think logically and for understanding English grammar. It also helped me learn other languages, because it familiarized me with parts of speech and their relationships to subjects and predicates, even when the other languages were more inflected than English.

Here is a link with more links to websites that have information on Diagramming Sentences.

I'll say something about writing paragraphs in a future post.


Kevin said...

Aunt Ruth,

You neglected to include, my Grandpa Robert's diagramming abilities. I recall hearing once that he could manage the "Our Father" nearly from memory in a short time.

Well, I guess that's now included. Maybe you didn't want to brag, or you just didn't recall. So, I figured I'd remind you.


Thrifty Girl said...

Ruth Ann,

Great sentence diagrams! I had a really fun time looking at these as I run a sentence diagramming website.

Like you, I see the benefits of sentence diagramming- what a useful tool for teaching analytical thinking. I wish that more teachers knew about sentence diagramming and used it. Anyways, thanks for the great post!


Ruth Ann said...

So glad you enjoyed my post, Elizabeth. I enjoyed looking at your website. Yes, the six steps were oversimplified, but definitely a good intro.

Kevin, you're right that your Grandpa could diagram very well. But I think it was the Pledge of Allegiance, not the Our Father.

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