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Relative clauses KS2 – master them with this clever folding technique

Conquer relative clauses without sending your class to sleep, with this low-tech idea for UKS2

Sophie Bartlett
by Sophie Bartlett
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You say ‘Year 5’, and teachers across the country hear ‘relative clauses’.

Thanks to the National Curriculum, they’re a common feature in many writing lessons and grammar tests as soon as children hit UKS2.

So, when it comes to teaching, we need to make sure the concept really sticks.

This lesson focuses on embedded relative clauses: how to turn a simple sentence (or single independent clause) into a complex sentence by adding more information to the noun.

The physical aspect of the task helps children to quite literally see the difference between the two sentences. 

Simple sentences

Start by thinking of seven or eight simple sentences to which children could add a relative clause in the middle.

These could be something abstract but, ideally, some would be related to the book you’re studying in English (e.g. ‘The boys at Camp Green Lake have to dig a hole every day.’) or a topic you’re teaching in another curriculum area (e.g. ‘Jupiter is the largest planet.’).

Doing this allows children to consolidate and apply their learning from other subjects. 

Folding paper

Take some A4 paper in landscape orientation (this bit is fiddly so perhaps prepare these in advance!).

Mark about 6cm along from each side (left and right) and fold the sides underneath (mountain fold) so you have a rough square shape.

Now fold the two sides in to meet in the middle (valley fold) so you have a narrow rectangle.

When you open it out, you should have two mountain folds and two valley folds, forming a concertina effect.  

Prepare sentences

With the paper folded up, have the children write the simple sentences you chose earlier across the page. Again, it may be easier to prepare this in advance, perhaps by writing them yourself and photocopying.

It is important that the first noun in the sentence (or whichever noun you would like the relative clause to follow) is on the first part of the page when folded, and the rest of the sentence (that should come after the extra clause) is on the second part.

So, when folded, the two parts of the sentence should be next to each other, but have a gap in the middle when the paper is unfolded.

For example: Jupiter [fold break] is the largest planet.

Extra information

Now the tricky part is done, show the children how unfolding the paper ‘extends’ the sentence.

They need to add extra information to the noun by adding a relative clause inside parentheses.

Remind the children of the three choices of parentheses – dashes, brackets and commas (these could even be written in advance on the mountain folds).

Write the most common relative pronouns on the board for the relative clauses (who, which etc.). 

Impact of relative clauses

Using the ‘me, we, you’ strategy, complete the sentences and compare them with and without their relative clauses.

For example, when the paper is folded, the sentence might read, Jupiter is the largest planet, but unfolded, it reads: Jupiter – the fifth planet from the Sun – is the largest planet.

As an extension, you could write some relative clauses on the board and the children have to create a simple sentence around it! 

Sophie Bartlett is a Y5/6 teacher, and English and curriculum lead. Follow Sophie on Twitter @_MissieBee and see more of her work at

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