Interactive Language Wall

There are a couple of things I know about grammar and the elementary school classroom.  One, it is so important to help students understand the mechanics of good writing but two, the instruction of grammar can be pretty dry.

I always add a fun sentence that's ready to go on the first day of school.  It gets them curious and excited!
Several years ago, I began using mentor sentences as a way to get students discovering, identifying, and applying grammar principles.  I pull sentences from our read alouds (picture books are our favorite for this), resources found on TPT, or even sentences from my students’ writing pieces.

If you’re interested in learning more about mentor sentences, everything I know comes from Jeff Anderson’s book, Mechanically Inclined. I still revisit it today and walk away with something new each time.

Now here’s the part where I have to pause.  One BIG thing to know about me is that I crave movement, ownership, and empowerment for my students.  I will literally lie awake at night, thinking of ways to encourage my students to step into bigger roles with our curriculum.  And so, I knew I wanted to take our mentor sentences to the next level.

Thus, the interactive language wall was born.


These pieces (while no picnic to cut, for which I apologize) have been a game changer for our classroom.  They have invigorated our learning and changed the way my kids learn and apply rules of grammar.

I’m going to go through how WE use these pieces but please know: This is what works for US.  You all are so creative and know best what your students need.  I think teachers are the most intuitive people on the planet so you feel free to make adjustments that work for YOUR students.


Day 1:  If the sentence comes from a picture book, we read that book together.  We usually do this during our morning meeting and they KNOW to be hunting for that mentor sentence because they’ve already seen it written up on the board (I use my whiteboard space for this).

Students will then write the sentence down in their journals or on the worksheet.  I go back and forth between these two options; I like the worksheet because it allows easy and quick checking but the journal allows them to go back and see what they previously learned or labeled.  I recommend a healthy mix.

I like using these worksheets too (included in the resource HERE) because they make grading or checking a breeze.
I will always give students a challenge and they can try to “beat me.”  I take any chance to gamify things and this will really motivate them.  At the beginning of the year, I start slow and say something like, “I found 6 things to label.  I wonder who can beat me?”  As the year goes on, the number drastically increases because they’ve learned more and are capable of digging deeper and wider.

Day one usually takes 10 minutes and is the shortest day.

Day 2:  This is share out day and this is our VERY favorite.  Everyone gets out their sentences and someone starts us off.  Again, in the beginning of the year, it’s very guided with me playing a pretty active role as students come up to share what they labeled.  As the year goes on, turn it over to them and let them do everything from explain what and WHY they labeled a particular item to who comes up next.

Students do ALL the labeling and sharing.  You'll have to guide more at first.
My rules for share out day:  When you come up to label with a magnetic piece, you MUST use the word “because.”  For example, “I labeled ‘on top of the tree’ as the prepositional phrase because I know ‘on’ is a preposition and tells us where something is.”  I also keep a bucket of whiteboard markers handy.  Students can label with the pieces but also add their comments, too.  This leads me to my other rule of share day, too.  If you aren’t the student sharing out, you are recording what is happening on the board.  Our whiteboard is a mirror and the work you see should be reflected on your own paper.  I allow students to use colored pencils or pens to label their work.

Day 2 takes 15-18 minutes, depending on how much there is to be labeled and discussed.

Days 3 and 4: We use these two days to really grow as writers, having closely examined the craft our mentor author used.  There are two options for these days:



Sentence Revision: Take the mentor sentence and revise it, without changing the meaning, to make it stronger.

Sentence Imitation: Using strategies that the author used (and as a class, you have discussed these on day 2; it can be things like figurative language, commas in a series, a compound subject, ect), write your OWN sentence.

For both of these things, I have students write in their journals or on the worksheet (and this is where I REALLY love the worksheet because there’s dedicated space for this work). 

You can spice this up by having students share out in small groups and peers can pick the strongest sentence to share whole class.  Top writers can record their sentence on the board or on a bright index card or sentence strip, then displayed with the mentor sentence.  It’s up to you but make sure to highlight their efforts because this is proof of them now taking their learning to the application level.

Each of these (revising and imitating) can take anywhere from 12-18 minutes.

Day 5:  We usually do some sort of assessment or game.  In THIS resource, I have sentence quick checks that can be used as a quiz as well as games to practice grammar principles learned.  Sometimes, we keep it simple and I have them complete an exit ticket.  I use THIS and give them a prompt such as, “Write a complex sentence with an introductory phrase,” if those were things we had covered that week with our mentor sentence.  Again, do what works best for YOUR class.

Once day 5 is done (which, for us, is every Friday), we start fresh for the next week!



The language wall pieces included HERE also go well beyond grammar, which is something that I love.  Students are given the opportunity to dive into word structure, figurative language, and author’s craft.  You are bridging writing, reading, and language skills, which will have a hugely positive impact on your students!


So, get to cutting, get to labeling, and get to actively sharing out with your students!  

As the year goes on, we store the pieces in this box, instead of on the board.
Click HERE to grab the pieces we use!

11 comments

  1. So excited to use this resource! The links to your Day 5 are currently not working. Would love to know what you use! Thank you. :)

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  2. I am so am so excited to use this in my 5th grade class next year. I teach two sections of ELA. Do you have any suggestions about how to manage this with two different classes? I don’t have enough white board space (or the brainpower) to have two mentor sentences going at once...what are your thoughts on alternating weeks and doing a sentence with one class each week? I have been bouncing around a couple options but would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for an amazing resource!

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  3. Hey Jill! I love this resource so much and look forward to seeing how I can use it for my 2nd graders this year. Can you tell me about the cards across the top of your board and how you use them? Do you have a link to those as well?

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  4. I am interested in the pencils on the side...are those products in you TPT store? Or did you get them somewhere else?

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  5. Is this your primary way of teaching grammar? In the past, I've had students complete a daily grammar handout (from our reading curriculum) as part of their morning work in addition to teaching grammar as part of my writing lessons and addressing grammar mistakes in writing conferences. I'm questioning the value of the daily worksheet and thinking of replacing it with this, but am worried about making sure I cover all of the same skills. Do you have a checklist you use or a way of deciding which skills you want to focus on each week?

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  6. Hello-
    I have purchased the Greek and Latin Roots and the Interactive Language Wall. I have printed and used some of both resources. I am going to print and add more this year. I think I have a case of 'paralysis by analysis'. I am wondering if you have any thoughts on how to use which colors for the pieces. Or does it matter? For example, I can see from your pictures that you print all the figurative language definitions on one color. Do you have any more suggestions for printing? Thank you!

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  7. I bought this resource and I love it, but I am looking for a mentor sentence resource to help me get started. Do you have a list of books, sentences you use or a recommendation for a tpt resource?

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  8. Hi Jill! I recently purchased this resource for the PRIMARY grades on TPT. Is there any way you can add a noun and pronoun circle, along with a quick reference, like you have for the upper grade resource? Also, what font do you use for the circles? I love it!

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  9. Is there a particular way you color code

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