For this particular writing assignment, I am asking my students to look carefully at their sentence fluency. This is one of the biggest problems I've seen with this group of students' writing this year.
I administered a pre-assessment where I asked students to identify sentences that were incorrect and correct them. I had only one student out of 85 that could actually do this with 90% proficiency. I had one other that could do it with 70% accuracy, so I am really working on these skills during my language time.
During this lesson, I'll focus on some ways that students can correct their own fluency issues without much trouble. I like these strategies because they are fast, easy to remember, and students can use them in the future to help their writing flow.
The first strategy is simple. Students will find a "quiet" (ha ha) place in the classroom and read their writing aloud to themselves in a whisper or quiet voice. They will concentrate on reading word for word.
The purpose of this activity is to catch any missing words or awkward constructions. If a student finds a problem, he or she will correct it on the spot and then continue reading.
I will model and think aloud using a student example before we begin.
I will encourage the students to do this activity at least two times in a row just to be certain that every sentence has all of it's necessary words.
I loooooovvvve this strategy because it is so visual, and students see what needs improvement immediately!
First, they will count the number of sentences in each paragraph and record that number next to the corresponding paragraph. We will analyze the numbers in the following way:
Are any of your paragraphs super short? (Under 3 sentences?) Maybe they need some beefing up through examples and clarifications.
Are any of your paragraphs super long? Maybe you rambled a little bit. Could you be more concise? Do you need to split that paragraph into two?
Next, I'll have students count the words in each sentence. I don't always do this for an entire essay because it can become really tedious. This time, I'll focus on the paragraphs of the body. I'll have students count the words per sentence and record the number at the end of each sentence. We'll look at these numbers and discuss a couple of issues.
Are all of your sentences the same length? If so, your writing will sound choppy.
Are all of your sentences really short? You may sound like a robot.
Are all of your sentences really long? You might be rambling and have some run-ons.
The most fluent paragraphs will contain sentences with a variety of lengths. Maybe one has 8 words, one has 7, but you also have a 5 word sentence, and that awesome 13 word compound sentence.
Before I turn students loose on their own writing, I'll show them these three examples. We will count sentence length, and discuss the relationship between sentence length and fluency.
I'll give students some time now to revise their own work and make sure that their sentences are a variety of lengths. I'll also encourage editing of run-ons and the dreaded comma splice at this point.
These three paragraphs are courtesy of the Great Source Six Traits Writing book for grade 6.
The third strategy we'll use today deals with sentence beginnings. I'll have students highlight the first 2 or 3 words of each sentence. Then, I'll have them analyze how they started each sentence.
Since most of their paragraphs are around 5 sentences, I'll ask that them to see if they started any of the two or three sentences in a paragraph the same way. If there is repetition, I'll ask them to make changes. They'll use this handout for ideas if necessary. Again, I'll remind students that combining sentences or adding introductory clauses is a great option!