Writing Great Sentences

Whether you’re working with a first grader or a high school student kids can always use a bit of help writing really effective sentences.  It’s not easy to be both clear and interesting at the same time.  In fact, many of the kids I went to college with couldn’t write a complete sentence, didn’t know what a subject or predicate were, and could trip over a semi-colon without knowing it.


To teach about sentences, start by writing some simple fragments up on the board or on a sheet of paper that you and all the students can see.  Short, boring things work best:

“Amy saw”

“went to the gym”

“ate spaghetti.”

Ask the students if these are complete sentences.  What is wrong with them?  How can we fix them?  Point out how some are missing the subject, or who the sentence is about while others are missing the predicate or what the subject does or is.  Have students call out ways to fill in the fragments to make them complete.  Finally, have them all choose one fragment and write a really good interesting sentence with their fragment.  Have them share with the group what they have written.

Finally, for older kids at least, find an interesting sentence from a master writer for them to copy.  Point out the subject, predicate, and details that make the sentence really good.  One of the best ways to learn a skill really well is to first copy.  We do this in music, art, math, and many other subjects, but for some reason we have become so afraid of plagiarism that we never copy master writers.  (It’s not plagiarism to copy down a great sentence or paragraph or essay as long as you don’t try to sell it or pass it off as your own.)

Here is the sentence I had my kids copy this morning:

“Gilderoy Lockhart came slowly into view, seated at a table surrounded by large pictures of his own face, all winking and flashing dazzling white teeth at the crowd.” (From Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling)

We talked about how with that one sentence you instantly have a picture planted in your head and you know a great deal about the subject, Gilderoy Lockhart.

This short lesson is plenty for one day.  Keep on writing great sentences!

More From Layers of Learning

Hope you’ll check out our Writer’s Workshop page to find out more about how we teach writing and utilize daily mini lessons for grammar and writing skills instruction.  There are also lots of fun writing assignments and ideas on there.  We’d also love for you to follow us on social media and check out some of our units. They are hands-on, discussion filled learning to utilize with your whole family at the same time, because we love family-style school!

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