This post shares a recent lesson with my Year 11 Standard English class within the Stage 6 Reading to Write – Transition to Senior English module. As the first module of the senior course, it’s purpose is to establish and maintain effective strategies and processes for writing in a range of genres by exploring a range of texts. It was an easy choice to look at sentences as I had previously asked the class to write a 3D Reflection on their past learning as a skills inventory. Some students nominated specific areas of strength or weakness when studying English, yet all reflections provide an idea of each student’s writing ability.
A previous post, Mat sitting cats – building complexity from a simple sentence, outlines the process I intended to follow after working through exercises on a simple process for writing sentences that encourage analysis, and different sentence structures. Even proficient writers benefit from examining their sentence writing style with a view to making improvements that will (hopefully) increase their ability to access higher grades.
I love to challenge students with this simple exercise about language use or register. Write this on the board:
and ask the class what it means. Write up their response:
I don’t get it.
then discuss verbal and colloquial language, before building the complexity up to formal, third person language that will be required in an examinable, analytical essay. You might finish with
We are unable to comprehend the information.
Next, we looked at ‘because – but – so’ discussed on Mr Hanson’s English as originating from The Writing Revolution by Hochman and Wexler. This exercise was to assist students in writing a 3D Reflection based on their research task into the benefits of reading that was due in a few days time. I mentioned their earlier reflective writing task, and how this structure could help build ‘more complex sentences and develop analytical and deeper thinking’.
I wrote three sentence stems on the board:
Reading is beneficial because …
Reading is beneficial but …
Reading is beneficial so …
and we identified which sentence best fit one of the three paragraphs in the 3D format: describe, disclose, decide. We also discussed how this stem could be modified – through the use of synonyms and re-arranging words – so that their writing would be fresh and original rather than repetitive and stale.
We then moved onto the much awaited creative element of the lesson. In a previous class, students had been told to bring their journals, and many were eager to write. However, I explained how a mix of sentence length and complexity could shift their writing into a more sophisticated form. And here’s where those mat sitting cats became helpful.
The cat sat on the mat.
The cat, weary from eating, sat on the mat.
The cat, called Jasper, weary from eating, sat on the mat.
we discussed and experimented with simple, compound and complex sentences. Students were then challenged to add more detail by including adjectives, adverbs, and specific nouns as in the Mat sitting Cats post. It was a little disappointing that we didn’t have much time for this, although students were encouraged to complete this as homework. Finally, each student received these guidelines for future reference.
Featured image from shaunlevin.com
idonngeddit from Frank Chalk’s It’s Your Time You’re Wasting