Using a variety of sentences
Teachers need to be aware of the types of sentences contained in the model texts students are reading and to examine students’ writing to determine which sentence types need to be explicitly taught.
Students can be encouraged to locate effective sentences while reading texts and keep a record of example sentences in a class scrapbook or individual writing journal.
Teachers should demonstrate how to use different sentences types while modelling writing for the class.
Student texts can be typed or scanned and the teacher can model how to revise on the interactive whiteboard, focusing on improving sentence variety.
Students can work together to discuss and revise their texts, making changes to sentences if necessary.
Activities to support the strategy
Activity 1: manipulating complex sentences
Students can be given a variety of clauses – both independent and dependent to match.
Using mini whiteboards students write the same sentences with the clauses in a different order or using different subordinating conjunctions.
- independent clause.
- dependent clause.
- subordinating conjunction.
"The new bins will look more attractive as well as being easier for the students to use. As well as being easier for students to use, the new bins will look more attractive. Not only will the bins look more attractive, they will be easier for students to use".
It is easy for teachers to write complex sentences about a topic by consulting a list of subordinating conjunctions. Students could be prompted to use certain subordinating conjunctions or to make other changes or additions.
For example on the topic of littering:
"Rather than leaving their rubbish on the ground and walking away, students could discard their lunch wrap in the bin straight away".
Use instead of and change the order of the clauses.
"Unless urgent measures are taken, the school will miss out on new enrolments".
Add an extra phrase with because (coordinating conjunction).
"The school will miss out on new enrolments because of the litter unless urgent measures are taken".
"Because of the litter the school will miss out on new enrolments unless urgent measures are taken".
While it is difficult to completely eradicate littering, students could make more effort to follow the school rules.
Use even though.
Students can be encouraged to experiment with writing the same idea in as many different ways as they can.
Activity 2: complex sentence challenge
Students can be given a list of subordinating conjunctions and their uses and given a time limit to write as many complex sentences as they can about a topic.
- List of subordinating conjunctions
Other pairs and groups can determine which sentences are written correctly and choose the best to display.
EN3-6B: Outcome 6: uses knowledge of sentence structure, grammar, punctuation and vocabulary to respond to and compose clear and cohesive texts in different media and technologies (EN3-6B) - Respond to and compose texts: experiment with different types of sentences, eg short sentences to build tension and complex sentences to add detail
NSW literacy continuum
WRIC12M6: Aspects of writing, Cluster 12, Marker 6: Makes sentence level choices (e.g. short sentences to build tension; complex sentences to add detail) using a variety of sentence beginnings and dependent clauses.
- Derewianka, B. (2011) A new grammar companion for teachers. Newtown, Sydney: E: lit Primary English Teaching Association.
- An idea for writing long and short sentences:
- This companion website to The Writing Book: A practical guide for teachers by Sheena Cameron and Louise Dempsey has a Powerpoint on building complex sentences and a sentence opener ladder. The book has excellent ideas for all aspects of teaching writing:
- Books and online resources by Alan Peat also provide ways to teach different sentence types: