National Writing Project

Dancing with the Authors: Teaching Sentence Fluency

By: Bev Matulis
Date: April 2008

Summary: By making use of a new "featured sentence structure" each week, Bev Matulis, who is with the Saginaw Bay Writing Project, demonstrates strategies that model and reinforce varied sentence constructions in this chapter from Writing Intention: Prompting Professional Learning through Student Work.


Excerpt from Chapter

Each year, when my fifth graders turn in their first writing assignments, I am confronted with a daunting series of writing missteps: sentence fragments, run on sentences, missing commas, too many commas, choppy sentences, etc. — I know that these students have received instruction in sentence structure, but the rampant errors show that the lessons haven't transferred into student writing.

Sentence fluency is an essential writing skill, but it is very difficult to teach in a way that transfers into student writing. Many teachers rely upon daily language practice, grammar worksheets, or English books. I decided to search for a different approach. While working on my own composition skills at the Saginaw Bay Writing Project and at a Teachers College Writing Project Institute, I learned to study the work of my favorite writers. I studied their writing holistically for ideas, organization and details, but then I began to study their work at the sentence level.

Copyright © 2008. Reprinted by permission of Michigan Reading Association.
Matulis, Bev. 2007. "Dancing with the Authors." In Writing Intention: Prompting Professional Learning through Student Work, edited by Cynthia Clingman and Antonio Tendero, 36–40. Grand Rapids, MI: Michigan Reading Association.

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