Relative Clauses 

This is the house that Jack built.

I Explanation

In the example above, the part of the sentence in blue is a relative clause. Relative clauses are embedded within a main sentence. They are sometimes called adjective clauses because they always describe or modify a noun in the main sentence. A relative clause identifies a noun's meaning or gives more information about it. In the example above, the noun in the main sentence that is described by the relative clause, is red.

Object Relative Clauses

        Mandy is the girl who lost her science book.

    In this sentence the relative clause, "who lost her science book", describes the noun, "girl". It identifies exactly which girl lost her science book.
    A relative clause always begins with a relative pronoun. In the examples above, the relative pronouns are "that" and "who". They are in green. Other relative pronouns are "which", "whose" and "whom". Here is an example of arelative clause using the relative pronoun "which":

        Baby Bear's porridge was the porridge which Goldilocks ate.

All of these examples shown so far have been object relative clauses. They describe the objects of the sentences: house, girl, porridge.

Subject Relative Clauses
Another kind of relative clause is the subject relative clause. A subject relative clause describes the subject of the main sentence, as in:

 The game that I like best is Super Mario Brothers.

The phrase "that I like best" describes "game". It gives more information about the game.
        The person whose name is drawn will win the TV.

In both of these examples the relative clause occurs in the middle of the sentence right after the nouns they describe. Most subject relative clauses do immediately follow the subject, which is the noun they modify. Sometimes the relative clauses can be at teh end of the sentence, as in:
        The girl hit a home run who has red hair.

This structure is acceptable, but sometimes the meaning of the sentence is less clear than when the relative clause comes right after the noun it defines.
        The girl who has red hair hit a home run.

Sometimes a relative clause describes not only a noun in the main sentence, but the entire sentence.
        We went to the beach last weekend, which was a lot of fun.

The phrase "which was a lot of fun" modifies the whole main sentence, "We went to the beach last weekend". The relative clause is separated from the main sentence by a comma (,).

        Our team son the game, which made us all happy.

The easiest way to identify a relative clause is to look for the relative pronouns. Relative clauses always begin with relative pronouns - that, who, which, whose, or whom. The relative pronouns most often used are that, who, and which.

II Content Area

We plan to integrate lessons about relative clauses into a unit about Native Americans. The unit will fit into numerous areas of the Basic Education Plan for fifth grade Social Studies. Main fifth grade Social Studies goals to be covered are as listed. Sub-topics of many of these will also be covered.

The learner will analyze characteristics of peoples of the Western Hemisphere.
The learner will assess the influence of major religions, ethical beliefs, and aesthetic values on life in the United States, Canada and in America.
The learner will locate major phyxical features and suggest the influences of location on life in the Western Hemisphere.
The lerner will evaluate ways the people of the Western Hemisphere use, modify, and dapt to the physical environment.
The learner will evaluate the significance of the movement of people, goods, and ideas from place to place.
The learner will evaluate the extent to which basic cultural institutions on the United Sttes, Canada and Latin America help people meet their needs.
The learner will determine ways societies in the Western Hemisphere make decisions about the allocation and use of economic resources.
The learner will analyze economic relationships in the Western Hemisphere.
The learner will anlyze changes in ways of living and investigate why and how these changes occurred.
The learner will trace developments in the history of the United States, Canada, and Latin America and describe their impact on the lives of people today.

The language portion of this unit would focus on "The learner will analyze characteristics of peoples of the Western Hemisphere." Our lessons on relative clauses would extend throughout the unit. The first lesson would occur at the beginning of the unit. The second would happen several days later. The evaluation would take place at the end of the unit. Other lessons on relative clauses would happen in between these lessons.

III Core Activities


IV Lesson Plan


Students will be able to identify relative clauses and what they modify with eighty percent accuracy.
Students will be able to write sentences with relative clauses with fifty percent accuracy.


Have sentence strips, from The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses, in a story chart. Have students state how to identify the relative clauses in several of the sentences. Multi-Level Multi-Text Activity
Ask students, "What have you learned about Native Americans?"
Ask students, "What else do you want to know about Native Americans?" List these questions on the board.
Students will predict answers to these questions. Make sure all students are involved in this part of the activity.
Students will select a book and begin hunting for answers to the questions.
Students will share the answers as they find them and the teacher writes them on the board (including any discrepancies between books).


Today, we will learn how to use relative clauses in our own writing. This will make our writing more detailed and interesting. Learning to write relative clauses will also help you understand sentences with relative clauses.


Model writing relative clauses within original sentences:
A relative clause is used when one wants to include more information about the noun in a sentence, than has already been stated.
    1. Tell students steps:
        Decide what other information, about the noun, you want to include
        Decide which relative pronoun is appropriate, based on if it is a person or thing, singular or plural (refer to chart on wall, if you have questions)
        Place relative clause aRer the noun it modifies (explain that it is correct sometimes to place the clause elsewhere, but communication is more clear using this order)
    2. Give students a way to check their work: 
        Follow the same steps to identify a relative clause.
    3. Show them examples:
        From the information we gathered earlier, we learned that there were about 1,000,000 Native Americans living in North America when the Europeans arrived. I could write the sentence "There were about 1,000,000 Native Americans when the Europeans first arrived," but this would be false, because the number does not include Native Americans in Central and South America.

4. Have students tell the steps and write them on chart paper. If they do not understand, continue showing examples from the list of sentences about Native Americans.


Divide students into partners. Have them write five sentences, using relative clauses, about the information learned during the Multi-Level Multi-Text Activity. Remind students to check their work by labeling their sentences.


Students will write five sentences, using relative clauses, about the information learned during the Multi-Level Multi-Text Activity. Remind students to check their work by labeling their sentences. Depending on the time remaining, students may do these in class or for homework.

    The Western Plains Indians developed a type to sign language which helped them communicate.
    A man who was too old to hunt might become an arrow or bow maker.

Students will share their sentences. The teacher will write these on teh board. Students from other groups will come up and label the sentences.
Remind students, "Today you selected different books about Indians and their cultures. You also wrote sentences using relative clauses about the information you found."

V. References

Gillespie, J., & Naden, C. (Eds.). (1994). Best Books for Children: Preschool through grade 6. New Providence, NJ: R.R. Bowker: Reed Reference Publishing Co.
Goble, P. (1978). The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses. Scarsdale, NY: Bradbury Press.
Hargis, C. (1984). English Syntax: An outline for clinicians and teachers of language to handicapped children. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas Press.
Heidenger, V. (1984). Analyzing Syntax and Semantics: A self-instructional approach for teachers and clinicians. Washington D.C: Gallaudet College Press.
Tunis, E. (1979). Indians. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Press.

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