Stringing Sentences Together

Sentences can be sensational when used effectively. Assisting student writers to incorporate a variety of sentence structures into their pieces instantly improves the quality of the writing they produce.

Frequently student writers produce the short sharp repetitive structures as seen in the example that follows:
I have a bike. It is red. I like to ride it. It is fun. My friend and I like to ride in the forest. It is really cool there. We have a good time. When it is time to go home I have to put my bike in the garage. That is where I keep it

  • The sentences lack variety
  • The structure of the sentences is similar in most sentences
  • The sentences lack energy or excitement
Here we are able to teach the strategy of sentence combining using –connectives to make sentences flow. This improves the fluency of the piece for the reader. We can also teach the writer to use a variety of sentence beginnings.  With varied beginnings the writing is more interesting to read, and this keeps the reader engaged.

Ralph Fletcher reminds us good sentences have a musicality to them.  (Page 128, Pyrotechnics on the Page- Playful Craft That Sparks Writing’) The aim for the writer is to create sentences that sound good to the ear of the reader.

Fletcher suggests teaching students to write a string of three sentences where the first sentence is a long sentence, followed by a shorter sentence and ending with an even shorter sentence. The rhythm this sets up prepares the reader for the final short sentence.

 My leg began throbbing as I tried to climb clear of the large grey car.  David asked if I was alright. I wasn’t sure.

From: Pieces of Life

The first sentence contains eighteen syllables, the second has eight and the third has four. The diminishing sentence length builds expectation. You can challenge students to try this in reverse as well. Just to add to the fun.

It was a small car. Its faded black duco and unfashionable shape made it unpopular with Jimmy. He saw the family car as a slow lumbering black tortoise that offered a less than comfortable ride.

From: Owls In The Sunlight

When students have written their own sentences have them count the syllables then ask them to read their sentences aloud and listen to the flow of the words. Just like playing with individual words, sentences can provide a sense of playfulness for the writer.

Reference:

‘Pyrotechnics On The Page Playful Craft That Sparks Writing,’ Fletcher, Ralph, Stenhouse, 2010

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