3 Simple Ways to Fix Sentence Fragments in Upper Elementary

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All writing should begin with strong, complete sentences. Yet, even in the upper elementary grades, students may struggle with crafting complete sentences. 

Sentence fragments often find their way into student writing, leaving ideas dangling and communication unclear.  A sentence fragment is almost the opposite of a run-on sentence.

By understanding the importance of complete sentences and the common pitfalls of sentence fragments, we can guide students toward clearer, more impactful writing. 

In this post, we go into 3 simple things you can teach students to do to fix sentence fragments and make them beautiful complete sentences! Plus sentence fragment activities!

What are Sentence Fragments?

We know there are so many grammar rules and concepts to remember- so to make sure we are all on the same page, sentence fragments are INCOMPLETE sentences— a piece of the sentence puzzle is missing. 

A sentence fragment lacks a subject, a verb, or a complete thought. When you’re reading through your students’ work and find yourself confused, this can be due to a plethora of fragments. You’re only getting a snippet of the information you need.

Here are some common types of sentence fragments you may encounter:

1. Missing Subject 

Example of a fragment: Painted a picture

Find yourself wondering- Who painted a picture?

2. Missing Verb

Example of a fragment The red planet Mars. 

Find yourself wondering- What about Mars?

3. Incomplete Thought (also known as a dependent clause without an independent clause)

Example of a fragment: Before going to school.

Find yourself wondering- What happened before school?

By understanding these common types of fragments, students can more easily identify and correct them in student writing. 

If your students need to go back to the basics with this, we suggest grabbing our HOW TO WRITE A SENTENCE FREEBIE!

Learn HOW to get your students to fix their sentence fragments below! (Plus we are sharing almost 3 weeks of low prep targeted sentence fragment activities to help guide students on exactly how to find and change sentence fragments into complete sentences in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades!)

how to fix sentence fragments


Well, if this isn’t a LOADED question!

Encouraging students to write complete sentences with subjects, verbs, and complete thoughts requires specific strategies.

1. Make sure students understand the essential parts of a complete sentence. This will make it easier for them to notice when something is missing and what that might be.  

2. Go over subordinating conjunctions! 

Students don’t need to know this specific term; they just need to know their function and what they are! 

We like to give students a list of these conjunctions (we call them AAAWWUUBBIS conjunctions…more on this later) and go through each one.  We give lots of examples and do some practice activities with these too as they can be quite tricky.

3.  Provide targeted skill practice. Give students lists of sentence fragments and a checklist of the required parts, and have them determine what is missing.

Have students practice self-talk with questions like 

  • ❓ Do I know who or what is doing something in this sentence?
  • ❓ Do I know what the subject is doing?
  • ❓ Am I confused after reading this sentence?
  • ❓ Do I see a subordinating conjunction here? If yes, is it connected to a complete thought with its own subject and verb?

By teaching students these strategies, you can help students become more aware of sentence fragments! If they can more easily find the fragments, fixing them becomes less of a challenge!

Sentence fragment activities independence


Once students understand fragments, it’s time to practice fixing them. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help your students turn those incomplete sentences into beautiful, complete sentences:

1. Find the Missing Piece:

Determine what’s missing in the sentence fragment. Is it missing a subject, a verb, or the thought incomplete?

Use Highlighters as a visual aid, have students use highlighters to highlight the subject and verb in their corrected sentences. This can help them see if they’ve added these essential elements.

Also, have students read the sentences out loud! It can sometimes be easier to recognize when a sentence is incomplete when hearing it. 

2. Add it in

Add the Missing Subject or Verb:

If the fragment is missing a subject or a verb, add it to complete the sentence.

Example of a Fragment: Walked to the store.  

  • Fix by adding a subject: He walked to the store.

Example of a Fragment: The big house. 

  • Fix by adding a verb: The big house stood on the corner.

Complete the Thought:

If the fragment lacks a complete thought, add the missing information to make it meaningful. This is when knowing those  AAAWWUUBBIS (subordinating) conjunctions come in handing

Example of a Fragment: Although the power went out.

  • Fix by adding a complete thought:  Although the power went out, the party was fun.

3. Check for Completeness

After adding the missing parts, students re-read the sentence (out loud is best)  to make sure it makes sense and there’s no more confusion. If not, they revise it until it does.

By following these steps, students can transform their sentence fragments into clear, complete sentences.

If you want to dive in more to targeted sentence fragment practice, we suggest trying the sentence fragment activities below. 

These activities are perfect for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students. The resource has activities for editing sentences to make them complete plus anchor charts for easy visuals to help guide students.

how to fix sentence fragments


More on one of the most fun acronyms we know of- AAAWWUUBBIS (we pronounce it AW-WUH-BIS) 

AAAWWUUBBIS stands for the 11 most common subordinating conjunctions

After, Although, As, When, While, Until, Unless, Because, Before, If, Since

But why are these conjunctions important?

It’s really important for students to know and understand subordinating conjunctions because they might need to use one of these to fix a fragment, or to understand why their sentence is a fragment. 

They connect an incomplete thought to a complete thought, helping us write complex sentences. 

For example, if we write, “Although it was raining,” it’s like starting a story without finishing it. 

But if we add more, like: “Although it was raining, we still went for a walk,” then it becomes a complete sentence! 

Knowing these words helps us make sure our sentences are whole and make sense. Plus, it makes our writing more interesting!

By using these simple yet powerful strategies, you can help your students transform incomplete sentences into complete, compelling ones. Let’s make fixing sentence fragments an engaging challenge, celebrating each corrected sentence as a step towards stronger writing. 

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