I am thinking about sentences.
For a few days now, I’ve been scoring stacks of essays. (If you teach English, I know you’ve been right here with me. Shana wrote about her disdain for grading and some solutions here.)
Reading student essays can be a joy or a chore. A really long never-ending chore. This time around, it’s like scrubbing the tub with a cotton ball after a team mud race.
With almost every essay, I’m scratching my head wondering how a student gets to be in 10th or 11th grade without learning how to write a clear, concise, complete sentence. Just give me one I want to say.
We could work with that.
So today, I am thinking about sentences and how to help students think about what they want to say before they ever lift their pens. And how talking about their thinking will help with their writing.
I am reminded of the importance of reading. Students must read and read a lot. We must teach them to notice how writers construct meaning by linking words into sentences. We must encourage them to talk about what they notice.
I am reminded of the value of mentor sentences. We must expose students to a variety of single sentences and help them talk through what moves the writer makes in each of them. Word choice, structure, details, figurative language: we must help our students understand how and why writers make intentional choices as they craft meaning.
Then, we must encourage them — and give them time — to practice crafting with intention on their own.
I am reminded of the need for conferences. We must make it a habit to talk with our writers one-on-one, regularly. The more we speak with them as writers, the more they will develop the identities of writers.
Writers take time to craft their sentences.
I recently read this post “5 Ways to Write a Damn Good Sentence,” and I am going to work these tips into my instruction the next few weeks as my students work on their final writing project. I am also going to find some mentor sentences that model each of the first four tips. We’ll practice the fifth one.
Next fall, I will not wait so long.
1. Insert facts.
2. Create images.
3. Evoke emotion.
4. Make promises.
5. Practice, practice, practice.
©Amy Rasmussen, 2011 – 2015