Saturday, January 7, 2012

Crafting Power Sentences

This post is about a chart I created with my friends over a three day period. It was really review for us, so the lessons were sort of quick hits.  We did a section of the chart, they practiced in their writer's notebook with a quick share.  My goal was just to review some areas in writing and grammar that I've seen they need a little reminding about.  This is what the chart looked like at the end of day three:
 As you can see, it's a busy chart.  That's why I really suggest doing it as a quick lesson over a few days.  I will explain how I did it and give you some changes you might make so that it's a better fit for your friends.

Day 1
Learning Goal:  Using more descriptive verbs that relate mood
This was the chart at the start of the lesson.   We started with a simple sentence: The boy went up the stairs.  I then focused my friends on the first column, the different moods I might want to create as a writer.  We discussed how our simple sentence just doesn't do it.  As a class, we brainstormed some different verb choices that better suited the moods.  I charted these, and then we read the sentence again, substituting the new verb choices each time. 

To practice, my friends then worked with a partner for a minute or two to brainstorm their own verb choice for the same sentence and write it in their writer's notebook.  We did a quick share of some and then off they went for independent writing. 

Modifications:  This could be the extent of your entire chart.  You don't have to go on and do the other sections.  For younger friends, working on verb choice alone may be enough.  You could also focus this lesson on synonyms for verb choice.  How many verbs can you think of that would show someone going up the stairs in a happy mood?  Bounced up? Jumped up? Pranced up? Skipped up? Danced up?

Day 2
Learning Goal:  Using adjectives or more descriptive phrases to relate mood and stronger visual images
For Day 2, we briefly reviewed the previous day's lesson and then discussed how we could add adjectives or descriptive phrases to help relate mood and create a more powerful mental picture for the reader.  We brainstormed together to fill in the last column.  Notice that for our happy and carefree mood, we didn't really change anything.  It was important for them to see that sometimes you just may not be able to think of a way to change the sentence. I come back to this at the end of day three, so I'll explain then.

For independent practice, my friends followed the same procedure at Day 1 using the same sentence in their writer's notebook.

Modifications:  To simplify it, you could focus on just adding one adjective in front of the word stairs in the original sentence.

Note:  I'm a little embarrassed!  It wasn't until I was looking at the chart after school on day 3 that I realized I wrote "creeped" when "crept" is grammatically correct.  I did go back and correct it with my friends, but it's not in these pictures.  Oh well, it's probably good for them to see that even teachers (this teacher anyway) need to proofread! 

Moving on. . .

Day 3
Learning Goal:  Correctly using and punctuating dependent clauses and creating vivid, descriptive mental images
Dependent Clauses have been a stickler for some of my friends, especially using commas correctly with them.  For this section, we worked on adding dependent clauses that related mood.  As you can see, we also threw in some adjectives for the boy.  I also highlighted the use of the comma. 

For independent practice, my friends went on to add a dependent clause to the sentence they had been working on in their writer's notebook.  We did a quick share, and then I had them write their "Power Sentence" on a sentence strip.  We hung them up in the room, and of course I forgot to take a picture of them!  But, I think you get the idea.

Modifications:  Dependent clause is definitely an upper elementary focus, so you might want to simplify this section.  In all, this would be a great chart for a simple adjective lesson.  Your friends could focus on simply adding adjectives for the boy.  You could also remove the "mood" section altogether if you wanted to just focus on adjectives, but I do think the mood really guides this lesson no matter how you modify it.

So, as you can see from the chart, we went from the simple sentence, "The boy went up the stairs" to:
  • With a gleam in his eye, the boy race up to the top of the staircase.
  • Head bowed, the boy sighed and dragged himself up the long staircase.
  • With a nervous glance up, the timid boy crept up the dark and shadowed stairs.
  • While humming a silly tune, the boy bounced up the stairs.
  • With a scowl on his face, the boy stomped up each step of the staircase.
As I noted, these were quick lessons each day.  They were meant to be a quick, meaningful review, not take up our whole writing period. The new sentences are complex sentences that create mood and vivid mental pictures.  This is a skill my friends can always use practice with.

On day 2, we never changed "the stairs" section of the sentence.  One of the reasons I let this go was to point out to my friends that every part of a sentence doesn't need to be bedazzled.  We sometimes use that term in class.  I will tell my friends that their writing needs some bedazzling!  It's a silly way for them to see that they have fallen back into the habit of using only "simple" writing. 

It's also important to point out that every sentence shouldn't be so involved.  We have done lessons on varying sentences for structure and length, so my friends know not to "over bedazzle" their writing. Does that make sense to anyone but me?!!

So, that's my chart that I call the chart that just keeps on giving. :-D  I like charts that you can go back to over time.  I find that my friends tend to get those lessons better when we are able to go back to the same chart a couple of days in a row.  It just seems to imprint on their brains a bit more than the anchor charts you hit for one day only and then hang up.

Hopefully there is something in this chart you can use.  Have a happy weekend! See you tomorrow!


  1. I love how much detail and time you put into your post! I will definitely be using these ideas next week with my kiddos :) I'm new to the blog world, so if you have time could you please check us out :) Thanks and I'll be back to blog-stalk :)

    Lisa :) (new follower)

  2. This is great stuff! I'm so glad you're willing to share it in such detail. You have a new follower! (Thank you Pinterest for connecting me to a new inspiration!)

  3. This was just what I needed to get my brain in "teaching mode" as I gear up to return to school on Monday after a 3 week winter break!! Excellent!!

  4. What a great idea - I love how you suggested adjustments that could be made. I have 'starred' this post in google reader so I can come back to it when school returns.

    Down Under Teacher

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  6. I love this idea! I am already incorporating it into my lessons!

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  9. Nancy:

    This is sooooooooooooooo good!
    Love it. Love it. Love it.
    Printed it!

    Great chart. Great post. Great idea.
    (I'd fall over dead if my sixth graders used more than 5 words in a sentence without my begging them)
    Thanks for sharing.
    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

  10. I love this and thank you for taking the time to explain it in such detail! You are awesome! Your kiddos are blessed to have you as their teacher! Your classroom must be amazing! =)

    Heather's Heart

  11. I love your ideas. I am a fifth grade LA teacher and struggle with lengthening sentences. I have tried EVERYTHING! I like the mood characteristic combined with changing your original simple sentence. Thank you so much. I am new to the blog world also-thanks to Pinterest. I am more than happy to share my ideas on writing too. My email is I have Promethean flipcharts and ppt to share!

  12. Such a great idea. I'm a special ed teacher in Minnesota. I can't wait to use your idea to help my kiddos who struggle so much with writing. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Thanks for posting this awesome idea! I used your chart format but I typed it up on the computer so my kids could have copy to fill in and glue in their writing notebooks. I also presented it a bit differently, as they were already pretty familiar with adjectives, adverbs, etc. I spent a lot of time showing how to add the dependent clause and used it more as a tool to show them how to revise their "boring old sentence" to make it fit the mood of their writing. We did the first two rows today and am going to finish it throughout the week as my writing minilesson, hoping to inspire them to make their own writing even better. We talked about how the new sentences conveyed the mood so much better and how we even noticed that we read the sentences differently when the author gave us clues about the character's mood. They were excited today, as we are writing fairytales, to revise their rough drafts with some new ideas. Yay! Thanks for your willingness to share your wonderful ideas!!!

    1. Hi Jamie. I absolutely love hearing from readers who have tried an idea they saw on my blog. What I love even more is that you tweaked it to fit your friends. I really believe the best teaching happens when teachers collaborate and share ideas. I'm so glad you found this idea useful. I love it because the kids really do get excited about revising their sentences once they see how they can change them this way. If you can get a kid excited to revise, you win! Thanks for reading!!!

  14. I love this idea! My kiddos have been working on word choice and adding details. This is a great way to pull that all together.

  15. Hi Nancy,

    I am sooo glad I stumbled across your blog on Pinterest. AMAZING! I actually made a template for "Crafting Power Sentences" and I want to email it to you. Where should I send it?


    P.S. I also work in NJ!

  16. I love this lesson! I'm filing this idea away for next year. I pinned it to Pinterest and teaching friends from 2nd-8th grade repined it. Definitely a great activity that works for any age. Thanks for sharing your hard work.

    I Teach. What's Your Super Power?

  17. I totally love your great ideas and resources. I am new to 5ht grade (and to blogging) this year and have already "borrowed" many ideas I will be doing very soon. Thanks a bunch for sharing!

  18. Great idea! For my third graders, I may make the first column adverbs, so an example could be: Slowly, the boy dragged himself up the long staircase.

  19. Great Idea! We have been struggling with Complex Sentences. I am having trouble seeing how some of your examples are complex sentences. Shouldn't there be a subject and verb after the subordinate conj.? Aren't there just two prepositional phrases in these examples- "With a gleam in his eye","With a scowl on his face","With a nervous glance up", etc. therefore, just a good simple sentence. Just trying to make sure I am teaching it correctly.

    1. Barb -

      You are right. Dependent clauses were not added here. Addition prep. phrases were added. I do like this idea very much, however.

    2. Yeah I noticed the lack of dependent clauses, too -- really cool activity though!! I'm probably going to use beefed up versions of this with my high school students. But everyone who is going to use it -- use the correct terminology so that the students don't get confused :) :)

  20. This is wonderful! Can't wait to use it in my classroom. Thanks for sharing.

  21. Thank you! I'm moving up to 4th grade from 2nd/3rd this year, and this is exactly what I was looking for. You've done a beautiful job! Your blog is so clear and well designed.

  22. This is such a good idea. Thank you for sharing :)

  23. It's such a creative idea! Wish to you a good luck, my dear! Thank you so much for sharing...☺

  24. It is a beautiful idea. But I am amazed that a "teacher" would so horribly mangle basic grammar. The sentence analyses are systematically and completely incorrect. A verb does not contain the word "up." The subject is included in what is called a "dependent clause." And the dependent clauses are called adjectives.

  25. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to trying this with my Yr 7 class.

  26. Greetings from Malaysia! This is awesome stuff! I'll definitely be using it with my classes. Thanks!

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  28. Thanks for sharing such is an awesome strategy for writing. It gives the kids structure and this can achieve success. Later you could move to using modelled text from quality literature and use similar strategies

  29. that is nice article, and i like the picture..

  30. Thanks a lot for this wonderful strategy for writing. I wished I would have come across this amazing blog of yours sooner. I've been looking for this kind of strategy for ages! This is really brilliant.

  31. I just stumbled across this while looking for something else, and I love it. Amazing way to show how grammar and meaning are related.

    But . . . as a few others have noted, this lesson HURTS the students more than it helps. The chart helps to name (to classify) certain parts of speech/parts of the sentence, but the teacher (blogger) fails the very test she presumes to teach and assess. I'm very troubled by this. The teachers doesn't seem to know (to be able to, as we say, DISTINGUISH)a clause from a phrase. And yet she purports to teach this distinction to not only her students but also her colleagues? Unfortunate.

  32. Thank you so much for sharing. I'll definitely be using this strategy with my students.

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  37. This is awesome! I love it, and I think my kids will really enjoy making complex sentences that mean different things from the same beginning!

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