Keep Varying Sentence Length

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This lesson was originally designed to use with 5th graders

  • Read Seabiscuit the Wonder Horse by Meghan McCarthy. As an interesting side note, point out that a lot of this story took place right here in Arcadia at the Santa Anita Racetrack.
  • Pass out the text of the story to the class. Tell them that one of the things that you love about how this story is written is that it uses some great short sentences. Have students go through the story and, in yellow, highlight all sentences that are 4 words or less.
  • Take some time to discuss what a short sentence does to a story. (It draws importance, builds suspense, emphasises an idea)
  • Point out that a story that is written in only short sentences would not be well written. To illustrate this point have them go through the text and highlight, in a different color. You might want to clarify what a long sentence is. The first one I consider to be long is the sentence, "The horses were sleek, elegant, muscular; well-bred, and fast."
  • Discuss with students what long sentences add to a story. (They are descriptive, they set off short sentences)
  • To provide some practical application have students look at a piece of existing writing. At the bottom of their page, or on a sticky note, have them write Long Medium Short. They should read their writing and after reading each sentence put a tally mark under the appropriate description of the sentence's length.
  • Have students reflect on what they find. Challenge them to go back and rework some sentences to create more variety in their sentence length. They might need to combine sentences, or add detail to a sentence in order to create some more long sentences. Perhaps they need to add in some real short ones somewhere.
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