“It’s all about the sentence,” a colleague said to me a few weeks ago. “Now that so much communication takes place on little screens, writing one good sentence is an important skill.”
Usually, when my students return from spring break, I begin class with some kind of writing, usually a whole page of it, just to get them warmed up and writing again. But this week, I thought about what my colleague had said, and I said to my students, “You each need to write one sentence about your spring break. Take the most interesting details, the highpoint or the lowpoint, choose whatever was most significant, and get it into a single sentence.”
They looked at me sleepily, but obediently began scribbling away on the paper in front of them. I could see they were taking the exercise seriously, crossing out and rewriting, trying to cram as much as they could into that one sentence. I looked down at my own paper and began writing my one sentence.
Then we read the sentences aloud. They were terrific: some of them were so funny that we all laughed aloud. Some were sweet — one student had attended a wedding for a grandparent – and some were poignant – one student’s sentence ended by saying that she had attended her first funeral. One student wrote out a complicated sentence that described what he did at his job, and the next student said simply, “I ate homecooked food.” Another student read, “Twenty-four hours crammed into a car with five other people can make you crazy.” By the time we were done, the sleepy students had woken up.
“Trying to cram so much into one sentence was hard, but it made the sentences so much better,” said one student.