Take a published sentence and break it into simple sentences. Instruct your student to combine the sentences into one complete sentence. Compare his sentence with the original one. Which one does he prefer? Better yet, do this with several students to compare the different results.

We'll start with an easy one and work our way to more difficult ones.

The original sentence:
"The path was rough and covered with small stones" (Island of the Blue Dolphins 89).

Simple sentences:
The path was rough.
The path was covered with small stones.

***

The original sentence:
"When a week had gone by and still no results from my traps, I gave up" (Where the Red Fern Grows 60).

Simple sentences:
A week had gone by.
There were still no results from my traps.
I gave up.

***

The original sentence:
Johnny had always thought her a shy girl, but she stood up straight before the Judge, speaking in her clear, low voice" (Johnny Tremain 83).

Simple sentences:
Johnny had always thought her a shy girl.
She stood up straight.
She stood before the Judge.
She spoke in her clear voice.
Her voice was low.

***

The original sentence:
"High in a tree, at the swampy edge of the pond they had called Loon Pond, the bees were buzzing in and out of an old woodpecker hole" (Sign of the Beaver 22).

Simple sentences:
The bees were high in a tree.
They were at the edge of the pond.
The edge of the pond was swampy.
The pond was called Loon Pond.
The bees were buzzing.
They were buzzing in and out of a hole.
The hole was an old woodpecker hole.

When you make your own exercises, browse a favorite book for a sentence you like. Break it into as few or as many sentences as you like, depending on the ability of your student. Ask her to do the same thing, giving you simple sentences to combine.

Benefits of this activity:
  • Students must play with language, putting all of the pieces into a puzzle.
  • As the sentences become more difficult, students won't immediately see a solution. They will have to try different possibilities--aka revising--always an excellent skill to develop.
  • Students will strengthen their understanding of what makes a sentence. It will be tempting to use comma splices and run-ons to incorporate all of the information from the simple sentences. If this happens, they will have to revise until they have a legitimate sentence.

In the comments, share your list of simple sentences for us to manipulate. How close to the original can we come?
 





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