Sentences. I love ’em, and I have my students write them all the time. I do this because I want them to be able to express their ideas clearly and correctly, and I believe sentences are the best way to achieve this goal. A series of strong sentences becomes a paragraph, and several paragraphs is an essay. Voila! The elusive 5-paragraph essay has appeared!
Sentence Elaboration with Task Cards
By the 3rd quarter, my students have demonstrated they are capable of writing a variety of sentences through our Sentences Roll-and-Write weekly assignment. Now it’s time to mix it up. I introduce a set of task cards (you can make your own or do what I did and purchase them here) that requires students to use word choice to improve a sentence. The set I purchased had a variety of demands – some asked students to use specific nouns, vivid verbs, or interesting adjectives. There were also sentences that needed to be improved with the use of figurative language. Rather than dump the whole set (all 92!) on my students, we started slowly and I modeled what I expected them to do.
Modeling How to Improve Word Choice
I began with the cards that asked students to use specific nouns. First, we quickly reviewed that nouns name people, places, things, and ideas using our Whole Brain Teaching gestures. Next, I displayed the cards on my Promethean Board enlarged to 200% so only a single card was displayed. Then, I modeled how I first identified the nouns and chose one to replace with something more descriptive. We practiced visualizing the differences before and after the word changes, and discussed how much easier it was to create mental images when the words were so specific. For example, replacing “dog” with “German Shepherd” allowed us all to have nearly the same idea of what the writer was trying to express.
It wasn’t long before my students were clamoring to practice their word choice skills with a partner, which I was more than willing for them to do! Students worked to develop interesting sentences, and then every pair had time to share their newly revised sentences. Now that I had established the ground rules for using these cards, I set them out during our Writing Workshop. Fast writers could practice elaborating in their writing notebooks on their own. Also, students were now expected to choose at least three sentences in their rough drafts and elaborate on them in the same manner as we had done with the task cards. By the end of the week, students were asking me for more cards. Score one for the teacher!
Tomorrow’s post will include more ideas about what you can have your early finishers do when they proudly declare, “I’m done!” Happy teaching! ~Sally