How to Improve the Structure of Sentences

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Teaching students to vary the word order that they use in their sentences to add interest and variety is a skill that you can model as you support your students in their growth as budding writers.  Of course sentence fluency is one of the effective traits that good writers develop to improve their ability to communicate. Mover and Shaker lessons support this particular expertise as they show students how to modify sentences to shake things up a bit and move words around.  It gives them the power to make important decisions that enhance their ability to effectively communicate with their readers. As your students grow in their revision skills they will improve the content of their writing with better word choice and improved sentence structure. Our Mover and Shaker lessons are all about improving the structure of sentences as students think critically about word order.

Here is an example of how Mover and Shaker lessons unfold:

  1. The student writes their revised sentence from their Sentence Blueprint.  (To review a Sentence Blueprint lesson, click here.)

  2. The adjectives that describe the subject are moved from in front of the subject to after the subject noun which they modify.

  3. Commas are placed around the adjectives.

  4. This improves the sentence fluency by adding interest and variety to the sentence format.

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As you teach your students all of the various Mover and Shaker lessons you will be giving them tools they can use throughout their future college and career choices. You will be expanding their understanding of how the use of word order can assist them in emphasizing various points in their sentences. Additionally, it expands their learning from not only understanding the effective use of word order in sentences, but to also grow in the realization of how word order is successfully utilized in the overall composition. Why not give our Mover and Shaker lessons a try to see how they add some variety to the writing of your students?

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David Lutz

David, a former classroom teacher, administrator, and self-proclaimed grammar nut, considers the oddities of English vocabulary and grammar his playthings! He received his degrees in elementary education, teaching, and curriculum design from CMU in Fayette, MO, and the University of St. Mary, Leavenworth, KS, respectively. His career has been a colorful collage of experiences in education, ranging from Kindergarten to Adult education and parenting classes.

 

He and his wife, Marjorie, have been blessed with 30 years of marriage, three grown sons, a cherished daughter-in-law, and the smartest, cutest grandson on the planet! He’s worked for Shurley Instructional Materials, Inc., for over 11 years and loves to help students and their teachers learn to love language and language learning as much as he does.

Revision Activity: Breathing new life into students' sentences

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One of my favorite things to do is to play with words. I love to figure out how to turn a phrase in just the right way to make my meaning clear. That’s my goal for all students so that they can master the language and control it. Being able to manipulate language to fulfill your own purposes for communication is, in my opinion, an endeavor worth pursuing.

One of the features of Shurley English that I enjoy dabbling with is the Mover and Shaker Sentence. It is the off ramp from the Sentence Blueprints I have discussed in an earlier post. This kind of skill practice can help a student writer take the next important step toward highly refined revision skills. If you can convince a student writer to explore word and phrase arrangements to maximize their impact on a sentence, you have truly helped to elevate their writing. Here’s an example from our text that will show you a basic Mover and Shaker maneuver that you can have student writers begin practicing immediately.

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To get started, guide your students through a Sentence Blueprint to construct a good focus sentence. After that, be sure to have them go through the revision process initially to make sure they have chosen the most effective words to express their thoughts. Then, try a Mover and Shaker strategy like the one in this example. Notice, we have done a little finagling with the verb. (In Shurley English, we teach students early and often about verb forms, so it will be a walk in the park for them to understand a verb form change from the past tense to the progressive tense. We also teach students how to manage affixes with expertise, so in the case of the verb tromped from our example, we drop the –ed past tense ending and replace it with the progressive tense –ing suffix.) Next, we take everything after the verb and, along with the new verb form tromping, we move it to the front of the sentence. Now, all that’s left is to come up with a new past tense verb to replace tromped from the original sentence. In this case, the verb bellowed serves up a great visual. Can’t you just picture it?

When your students have demonstrated their knowledge of basic revision skills and you want them to breathe new life into their sentences, why not try a Mover and Shaker strategy? It’s like word to word resuscitation! Until next time…

Comment /Source

David Lutz

David, a former classroom teacher, administrator, and self-proclaimed grammar nut, considers the oddities of English vocabulary and grammar his playthings! He received his degrees in elementary education, teaching, and curriculum design from CMU in Fayette, MO, and the University of St. Mary, Leavenworth, KS, respectively. His career has been a colorful collage of experiences in education, ranging from Kindergarten to Adult education and parenting classes.

 

He and his wife, Marjorie, have been blessed with 30 years of marriage, three grown sons, a cherished daughter-in-law, and the smartest, cutest grandson on the planet! He’s worked for Shurley Instructional Materials, Inc., for over 11 years and loves to help students and their teachers learn to love language and language learning as much as he does.