I love helping kids learn and use conjunctions. It opens up a whole new world in language, reading and writing. Conjunctions give depth and breadth to ideas and help us explain ourselves with greater detail and precision, making conversation, reading and writing more interesting and nuanced.
Coordinating conjunctions are words we use to connect, contrast, explain ‘why’, and show choices and results. When younger kids have language delays they tend to rely on nouns and verbs, content words, to convey their thoughts. If kids don’t use conjunctions then their speech can start to sound telegraphic and disjointed. We use many different conjunctions to convey simple to more complex ideas, providing the listener with more information just by adding one word!
Coordinating conjunctions include the following:
|for||Explaining why||I went to the store for some milk.|
|and||Make 2 similar points||She is smart and kind.|
|nor||Make 2 similar negative points||He likes neither apples nor bananas|
|so||Show the result of something||She studied for her test so she could get a good grade.|
|or||Provide alternative||You can go to the movies or to the park.|
|yet||Show contrast in spite of something||It was raining, yet we went outside.|
|but||Show contrast||I want to go, but I’m too busy.|
Explaining why we do something is easy with ‘for’. It gives a reason and is used in short and long sentences. “I wanted to see you for getting some help with my homework.” “He took the dog outside for a walk.”
The ever popular connecting word is easy to teach using real objects and pictures. Start with single items and then move onto connecting sentences and making lists. We all love adding things together, and when it is adding things we like then the activity is even more fun! Plus, it supports word retrieval and vocabulary building to think of and name different objects.
This conjunction is not as commonly used in everyday speech, and usually met with some raised eyebrows and scrunched up faces with middle and high school students when they hear it in sentences, or even worse, are asked to use it in writing! It states a negative point of two similar items, usually categorically similar. The addition of ‘neither’ is used in conjunction (pun intended!) with nor. “She wanted neither the coffee nor the tea.”
‘So’ is used to show the result of something. “I wanted to tell you about conjunctions, so I wrote this blog about it.” We are a results oriented world, so ‘so’ is commonly used to describe what happened as a result of an action. Not all actions are desired, so ‘so’ gets into all kinds of trouble too! “I ate too much ice cream, so I got a stomach ache.” “I forgot my keys, so I had to call the locksmith.” When connecting ideas and conveying a result of any action or inaction, this is a go-to conjunction!
This notable conjunction gives us options! And who doesn’t love options? You can toss this little gem between two words, sentences, or use it in a list. It is used anywhere a choice is offered, for better or worse. Kids use it all of the time in the popular game of Would You Rather. Would you rather have the power of invisibility OR teleportation? Something to ponder!
This conjunction has more use than nor, but is less prevalent in speech than the other conjunctions on the list. It is similar to ‘but’ in that contrast is shown, but used to show that something happens in spite of something else. “It was early, yet we wanted to go to bed to get a good night’s sleep.” The older we get, the more ‘yet’ is used in speech.
Whenever ‘but’ is taught there are usually a ton of giggles (from younger kids) when mentioning the word! After the laughter subsides, there is a little leap in understanding to the idea of a contrast. I use my hands to show the break in an action, making my hands go forward and then splitting my hands so that the other one goes in the opposite direction as I verbalize the contrast or exception in my sentence. “I want to hang out after school today, but I have to go home and do my homework.” With the visual cue and some practice sentences, kids pick this conjunction up pretty quickly.
It’s Important to Distinguish ‘Yet’ from ‘But’
‘But’ can be used as a preposition, adverb and conjunction. As an adverb it means ‘only’ or ‘more than’. ‘Yet’ is used as adverb and a conjunction, but not a preposition. As an adverb it means ‘so far’ or ‘still’. ‘Yet’ cannot be replaced by ‘but’. The easiest way to remember the difference between ‘but’ and ‘yet’ is to remember that but and yet can only be used interchangeably when they are conjunctions.
‘But’ as a conjunction is used to introduce a statement that adds something to a previous statement and usually contrasts with it in some way. In other words, ‘but’ connects two statements that have opposite meanings.
Her friend asked her to stay, but she had to leave. The shirt was cheap but very stylish. Many didn’t agree with her, but she didn’t let that discourage her.
When ‘but’ is used as an adverb it means “no more than” or “only.”
He is but a shadow of his strong brother. He is but a child. You have but two days to get ready.
‘But’ as a preposition is used to demonstrate “except” or “apart from.”
You have no choice but to leave. She had no one but her mother. I didn’t tell anyone but my best friend.
‘Yet’ can be used as an adverb as well as a conjunction. As a conjunction, ‘yet’ can connect two contrasting ideas. In this sense, it is quite similar to ‘but’. The two conjunctions ‘but’ and ‘yet’ are interchangeable.
Her mother told her to stay quiet, yet she started shouting. The dress is cheap yet elegant. Many didn’t agree with her, yet she didn’t let that discourage her.
‘Yet’ as an adverb means up until the present or a specified or implied time. It is equivalent to so far or still.
I haven’t watched it yet. Have you told anyone else yet? He is yet to be convinced of her innocence.
Ways to Practice Conjunctions
- Model them in everyday speech throughout the day.
- Target specific activities where you will directly teach and demonstrate the use of conjunctions (play time, meal time, discussions in the car, road trips, homework time).
- Make a list and see what sentences you can create from each conjunction.
- When reading a book or article, highlight the different conjunctions and talk about what they do in the sentence.
- After watching a short video, have kids do a retell and/or a written summary using a few chosen conjunctions.
Most of all, have fun and be creative! Language opportunities are everywhere!
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