Often I put one sentence on the board and ask students “What do you notice about this sentence?” Any answer about the structure is acceptable. Eventually one of the students will notice the particular grammar lesson I am trying to introduce. Very often it is also a review of other grammar structures.
These examples were taken from Everyday Editing by Jeff Anderson. However, I will often use a sentence from a text we recently read and follow the same format.
I showed the first sentence that students were to notice from the Commas in a Series Power Point (screen 2).
His room smelled of cooked grease, Lysol, and age.
As students identified various conventions, it provided an opportunity for review: ending punctuation, capital letters – first word of a sentence, name of a corporation, past tense, coordinating conjunctions, titles of books, authors, published date, etc.
Finally, when a student focused upon the commas, we discussed the reasons why commas were being used in this sentence
After the detailed discussion about the sentence presented, I show the same sentence with my sentence modeled after the original (screen 3). I explain that in order to improve our writing, we will be practicing some techniques that authors use in their writing.
We have a short discussion how this is not plagiarism; it is a way for us to learn new styles of writing and become proficient in our writing.
I asked the class, “How do you know that I wrote the second sentence?” Soon some of the students realized that the sentence was not written using italics nor quotation marks, so it was my own creation.
We discussed how the smells were concrete nouns and abstract nouns. Then we went on to share the effect of using an abstract noun in their writing.
I challenged them to create a similar style sentence focusing upon smells including the abstract noun.
Next, I showed the class three separate but related sentences (screen 4) and asked them combine them using commas in a series.
Students shared their newly created sentences, of course, noting the punctuation used.
I explained that the ideas of the sentence were taken from one that an author had used in her novel; I showed them the original sentence (screen 5). Students were excited when their sentence matched the author’s. I spent time explaining that if you wrote it a different way, it was not wrong; it just happened to be a different format than the one used by Polly Horvath.
The concept of this next activity was taken from Common Core Grammar Toolkit by Sean Ruday
I asked students to take out the books that they were reading for SSR (Sustained Silent Reading). They were to locate an example of commas in a series used in their book, then copy the sentence on a sheet of paper, page number, and explain how effective the sentence is written in this manner.
Next, I asked them to deconstruct the sentence into three simple sentences. They wrote a response explaining the different effect the three simple sentences had versus the original sentence using commas in a series..
I asked students to share their observations within their small groups.
As a whole class, we shared some observations about the effect of a sentence written as three simple sentences versus the use of commas in a series.