Lesson plan

An Introduction to Simple, Compound, and Complex Sentences

Introduce your students to three sentence structures. In this exercise, students will participate in a reading scavenger hunt as they look for different types of sentences in a short story.
GradeSubjectView aligned standards

Students will be able to differentiate between three different sentence structures.

(5 minutes)
Reading for Comprehension: Jason and the Game ShowWhat Are the Two Main Parts of a Sentence?Find the Sentence PatternsMix It Up! Making Varied SentencesSentence Makeover 1Reading for Comprehension: Jason and the Game Show
  • Display a piece of chart paper and divide it into three equal horizontal sections or rows. (Note: this chart can be prepared before the lesson.)
  • In the top section, write a simple sentence and read it aloud (i.e., "The smart kids read books every night.").
  • In the second section, write a compound sentence and read it aloud. (i.e., "The kids read books every night and then they go to bed.")
  • In the bottom section, write a complex sentence and read it aloud (i.e., "The kids read books at night before going to bed.").
  • Explain that each of these sentences gives similar information, but they are structured differently.
  • Tell students that today they will be learning about three sentence structures.
(10 minutes)
  • Refer to the first example and explain that this sentence is called a Simple sentenceBecause it has one complete thought. Simple sentences have a subject and a predicate (verb phrase) and can contain description words.
  • Label the first section on the chart "simple sentence" and provide another example like, "Dogs and cats make great pets."
  • Point to the second section on the chart and tell students that this is called a Compound sentenceBecause it has TwoComplete thoughts that are combined by a conjunction. Remind students that conjunctions are joining words like "and," "but," or "so" (circle the conjunction in the sentence). Compound sentences have two verbs (underline the two verbs in the sentence).
  • Label the second section on the chart "compound sentence" and provide another example like, "I love elephants, but I don't like the zoo."
  • Refer to the third section on the chart and explain that this is called a Complex sentenceBecause it has one complete thought and a Dependent clause, which is a descriptive phrase that cannot stand alone. A complex sentence always has a Subordinate conjunctionLike "although," "before," "because," or "if" (circle the subordinate conjunction). Sometimes the independent clause and dependent clause are separated by a comma.
  • Label the third section on the chart "complex sentence" and provide another example like, "After dinner, we can watch a movie."
(10 minutes)
  • Write a sentence on the board that reads, "I am allergic to milk, so I can't have ice cream."
  • Instruct students to turn to an elbow partner to determine what type of sentence it is (answer: compound).
  • Call on a student to tell what type of sentence it is and how they know (answer: it contains a conjunction and two complete thoughts)
  • Repeat with several sentences:
    • "I always ride the roller coaster at the amusement park." (simple)
    • "We ran downstairs and went outside." (compound)
    • "If she's done with her homework, she can play." (complex)
    • "They went swimming yesterday." (simple)
    • "He's bringing chips even though the party is over." (complex)
(10 minutes)
  • Hand out the short story "Jason and the Gameshow" on the Main Character worksheet. (Note: students will only need the text for this exercise. You may choose to cut off the questions and title before making copies.)
  • Instruct students to read the text and find at least one example of each type of sentence.
  • Tell students that they should underline a simple sentence in red, a compound sentence in yellow, and a complex sentence in blue. Write these instructions on the board for student reference.
  • Circulate and offer support as needed.


  • Review subjects and predicates so that your students are familiar with the basic parts of a sentence (see resources).
  • Provide additional practise with identifying sentences in a text (see optional materials).


  • Ask students to combine simple sentences to improve a piece of writing (see optional materials).
  • Have students practise writing different types of sentences (see related media).
(10 minutes)
  • Use a projector to show the digital exercise Types of Sentences.
  • Read the first sentence aloud as students follow along.
  • Instruct students to identify which type of sentence it is and write their answer on a personal whiteboard.
  • Tell students to hold up their answers. Scan student responses to gauge understanding.
  • Call on a student to read their answer aloud before moving on to the next sentence in the exercise.
(5 minutes)
  • Do the "high-five hustle" to review the lesson:
    • Ask students to stand up, raise their hands and high five a peer. This will be their short-term hustle buddy.
    • When everybody has a partner, tell students to come up with a simple sentence about pizza and tell their hustle buddy. Make sure both buddies have a turn.
    • Solicit answers from a few students.
    • Then ring a chime or play a song, like "The Hustle," as a signal for them to raise their hands and high five a different partner for the next question.
    • Continue doing the hustle and asking students to come up with complex and compound sentences about various subjects (i.e., the sun, elephants, lunch).

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