As a content creator, I was long overdue to provide some materials for writing practice. This morning I posted the first of a new series of lessons on EnglishCafe. Improve Your Writing: Lesson 1 focuses on sentence length. The goal is to raise students’ awareness of the need for variety. Too many short sentences make a composition choppy. Too many long sentences become too much to digest. By showing two models of weaker writing, a third model with a variety in sentence length clearly illustrates a better flow.
How could students focus on this aspect of their own writing? Try the following activity.
Step 1 – Have students write a set of 8-10 sentences about an object they once lost. Instead of being written in paragraph form, each sentence should be written on a new line. Also, the sentences are to be simple and short. Provide a model:
- I once had a lucky coin.
- My grandfather gave me this coin.
- It was old.
- Maybe it wasn’t very valuable.
- It was special to me.
- I always carried it with me.
- I lost it when I went camping one year.
- I was 13.
- I tried not to cry.
- I was so sad.
Step 2 – Have students exchange papers. They must then put the author’s sentences in paragraph form and decide which ones to combine, and which to leave short. Small changes, such as making a noun a pronoun, are allowed. You might choose to work with one model as a whole class before this stage of solo writing/ revising. A possible model based on the list of sentences from Step 1 is given below.
I once had a lucky coin that my grandfather gave me. It was old. Maybe it wasn’t very valuable, but it was special to me. I always carried it with me. When I was 13, I lost it when I went camping. I tried not to cry, but I was so sad.