What are fronted adverbials? Fronted adverbials are words or phrases placed at the beginning of a sentence which are used to describe the action that follows.

Here are some examples:

  • Before sunrise, Zack ate his breakfast.
  • After the rain stopped, Sophie went outside to play.

In these examples, the fronted adverbials have been placed before the verbs ‘eat’ and ‘play’, instead of the adverbials coming after the verbs, like so:

  • Zack ate his breakfast before sunrise.
  • Sophie went outside to play after the rain stopped.

When a fronted adverbial is used, a comma is usually placed after it. However, this is not true in every case.

Fronted adverbials can be used to add sentence variation to a piece of writing or text.

When are children taught about fronted adverbials?

Teachers will introduce children to fronted adverbials from Year 4 onwards, by highlighting when they are used in pieces of text or stories.

The impact of using these different fronted adverbials in the text might then be discussed with the class. Teachers will also be encouraging children to experiment with adverbial placement in their own writing.

What can children sometimes struggle with?

Whilst using some fronted adverbials will help add variety to a child’s story writing, sometimes children may begin to over use them. This can be an issue as instead of helping to make their writing more interesting, using too many fronted adverbials can make writing confusing and difficult to read.

Therefore, it is important to ensure that children find a good balance of using adverbial phrases and fronted adverbials, so that their writing remains interesting and clear for the reader.

How to help children with fronted adverbials?

Teachers will encourage children to use fronted adverbials in their written work by demonstrating how a sentence they have written could have been changed by putting the adverbial at the front.

Children might be given pieces of card with different parts of a sentence written on them, so that they can experiment with the different ways the sentence could be put together.

It can also be a helpful exercise to give children a word mat of adverbials which are divided into different topics, and then ask them to use this to complete unfinished sentences. For example:

____________________ , there lived a mysterious creature.

____________________ , Natalie began to cry.

____________________ , he grabbed his bag and slammed the door.

Feelings/Manner Time Location
Without a sound,
In the morning,
Once upon a time,
After a while.
All of a sudden,
On Friday,
In December
Beside the sea,
Out of nowhere,
Wherever they were,
Everywhere he looked,
Under the stairs,
In the distance,
Behind the tree,
Over the bridge,
In a faraway land,
In the middle of the desert

Using the word mat above, children might come up with following:

  • In a faraway land, there lived a mysterious creature.
  • Unexpectedly, Natalie began to cry.
  • Immediately, he grabbed his bag and slammed the door.

Completing exercises like this will help children get in the habit of using varied sentences and different vocabulary in their own writing.

How does Learning Street help children with fronted adverbials?

Through the structured learning of the core English skills, the child will gradually improve their ability. This will lead to better understanding and writing, through both directly learning about fronted adverbials and also seeing them used in other occasions.

A lot of the skill in learning and understanding fronted adverbials won’t come from directly learning about them, but instead just repetition in seeing them used, and using them.

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