Choose activities that require students to slow down and focus on the sentence as a unit of communication.
Be willing to spend significant class time on those activities.
Think of the sentence as a carrier of the music of language, not just content.
- Write at least three sentences with a new word. Each sentence must show the meaning of the word in context, without defining it. Each sentence must be interesting to the reader. Each sentence must have rhythm and beauty. Bring the sentences to your writers’ group. Share them. Have others choose the most successful sentences. Read those sentences aloud. Discuss what makes those sentences successful.
- When you find a powerful sentence in your reading, mark it with a post-it. Bring that sentence to class. Read it aloud. Explain why it’s powerful.
- When you learn a new grammatical concept, write original sentences that demonstrate that concept (prepositional phrase, appositive, opening adverb, etc). Write LOTS of these sentences. Share them. Choose the ones that are most successful, beautiful, powerful, descriptive. What makes those sentences the most successful, etc?
- When you write an essay or a story, reread your draft and mark sentences that are especially “good.” Explain aloud what makes them good to your partner or writers’ group. Or let a partner read your draft and mark your best sentences — then they will explain to you what makes those sentences good.
The goal of these exercises is to make students slow down and focus on individual sentences as units of communication that can convey power and beauty beyond rudimentary content. Once students begin to see the importance of each individual sentence, they are set on their way to understanding the importance of close reading and revision.