Some writing is just downright boring, and that’s a hard situation to talk about with young writers, much less help them to correct it. The easiest aspect of this problem to deal with is sentence lengths. This is easy to demonstrate and even very young writers can recognize when all of their sentences are of about the same length. This very simple exercise should help your students recognize this problem and encourage them to add variety to the lengths of their sentences. It will show students, no matter what grade they’re in, that:
1. Sentence length is important.
2. They can control the length of their sentences to help their readers appreciate and understand what they have to say.
In this exercise I’ll be speaking directly to your young writers, and they shouldn’t need your help as they work their way through it.
When you talk to your friends, all of the sentences you use are not of the same length. This is because you already know how the length of your sentences can help your friends understand what you’re saying. if you told a friend about a car crash, you’d automatically change the lengths of your sentences. This example will convince you that you do this. As you told your friend about the crash, you might structure your sentence lengths as they are in this example.
We were headed downtown. me and my brother heard this siren when we got to the corner of Main Street.
We were on the sidewalk by the drug store and here comes this cop car. This old Buick is just starting out from the stop street when he sees the flashing lights. he slams on the brakes. This guy behind him doesn’t see him stop and bans right into him, hard. Crash! Boy, was that a mess, with glass all over.
This is the way people talk and it’s the way good writers write dialogue. I tried to make this conversation sound real, and then I counted the words. This is what I found: Paragraph, sentence number and sentence length:
Paragraph I, Sentence 1. 4 words,
2. 16 words;
Sentence 1. 15 words,
Sentence 2. 17 words,
Sentence 3. 5 words,
Sentence 4. 13 words,
Sentence 5. 1 word
Sentence 6. 9 words
You’ll write abut an event. It should be written in third person and past tense. Put dialogue in it which should sound like real people talking. This means that the sentences must be of different lengths.
An easy way to practice this is to create two people in conversation and have one of them be an adult and one of them be a kid. You could write about a mother asking her son about cleaning his room. Or you could write about a young girl telling her mother what she wants for Christmas. You’ll have to have the characters give fairly speeches in order to give you an opportunity to vary the lengths of their sentences.
When you’re done writing, count the lengths of the sentences in your paper. If you find your sentences are different in length by only one or two words,you should rewrite some of them.Include an analysis of sentence lengths in your final paper. See the example below.
Ask your parents to look at your work each day and suggest how to improve it. They may want you to write a final copy. This means that it’ll be neat and have no spelling or punctuation errors in it.
This is a short exercise but it’s an important one. You should practice using different length sentences even when you’re describing things or writing letters to your friends. They’ll enjoy your letters more. And so will you. Every time you write, think about sentence length variety.
For more information on Dave Mark's extremely popular Writing Strands series and other books,
please visit his web site: http://www.writingstrands.com
Dave Marks, author of the very popular Writing Strands program has also authored Communication and Interpersonal Relationships, a very good guide especially for teenagers learning to deal with people and “real world” situations. The text provides many practical examples from every day life and EXERCISES to help students communicate with others effectively. For information about all of the helpful resources of the National Writing Institute, visit http://www.writingstrands.com