When I wrote the ‘Exciting Sentences’ book in 2008 I had hoped for, but certainly didn’t expect, such an overwhelmingly positive response. The approach is a simple one: if you give a sentence type a name (such as ‘2A sentences’ = 2 adjectives before a noun) and all staff use the same name then pupils will quickly develop a vocabulary which helps them to analyse sentences in the writing of others AND use a broader range in their own writing.
Feedback with regard to the impact of this idea has been forthcoming from schools as close to home as Stoke on Trent and as far away as New Zealand. Participants at my UK conferences do, however, often ask about the level at which sentences are taught and so, rather than wait until the new sentences book is published in 2013, here are the levels at which I’d INTRODUCE the sentence types. I’ve maintained the same order as the book for ease of use.
SENTENCE TYPE – LEVEL AT WHICH INTRODUCED
BOYS. High Level 1/ low level 2
2A. Low level 2
like a/as a. High level 2/ low level 3
3ed. Level 3
2 pairs. Level 4
De:de. Level 3 (initially thought this would be L4 but many pupils have coped
well with it at Level 3)
Verb, person. Level 3
O.(I). Level 4
If, if, if, then. Level 4
Emotion word, (comma) Level 3
Noun, which/who/where Level 3/4 (some pupils grasp it easily at Level 3, others find it complex…best to try it out in your own schools)
Many Questions. THE ONLY SENTENCE TYPE I’D USE JUDICIOUSLY..mainly because some pupils overuse question marks after its introduction. If you decide to include it, not below Level 4 for this reason.
Ad, same ad. High level 3
3 bad- (dash) question? solid level 4
Double LY ending Level 4
All the W’s Level 2
List sentences Level 2
Some;others Level 4
Personification of weather Level 3. (If taught effectively this is certainly feasible at Level 3!)
P.C. Another Level 3/4 one. Try with your own pupils.
The more, the more Level 3
Short sentences Level 3 (People often point out that pupils below level 3 can write short sentences which is quite correct. Knowing how and when to apply them in the context of a genre is, however, an entirely different matter, hence Level 3)
ing, ed. Level 3
Irony sentences Personally I’d suggest Level 5 though some have had success at Level 4
Imagine 3 examples: Level 4
Inevitably there will be debate about levels (quite right too..we don’t move forward without it!) so don’t be afraid to try out a sentence type at a lower level than the suggested ones above if you feel your pupils can cope with it.
HOW TO TEACH THE SENTENCE TYPES.
It’s not about numbers!!!! Using 6 sentence types in a piece of writing does NOT make it an effective piece of writing. The simplest way to explain how to teach sentence types is a Do and Don’t list.
1 Don’t turn them into worksheets
2 Don’t spend a whole lesson on a sentence type
3 Don’t decontextualise them
1 Link them to exciting writing projects with real purposes and real audiences
2 Model them and use them as targets in exciting writing projects with real purposes and real audiences
3 Link to reading but not all the time. Pupils should read books just for the pleasure of reading books (whole ones too!) and too much deconstruction ‘kills’ the joy of reading!
Finally, I was recently asked which genres they relate to. Many can be used in a wide range of genres but some are more narrative driven. I’d be glad of feedback if any school has been relating them to genres. BOYS sentences work well in comparison/contrast reports. In a more advanced report an If,if,if, then sentence can provide a powerful opening.
I am currently writing a 2nd book of sentence types. It’s been ‘on the go’ for three years now but expect that in 2013 and in the meantime don’t forget that HOW sentences types are taught is the most important factor in their success or failure.