March 23, 2011

Short and sweet

“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.

Exactly.

10 comments:

Martha Spong said...

That's a brilliant exercise. Not for the first time, I wish I were in your class.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your colleague. Writing concisely is so important in today's world.

JT

sciwo said...

I like this. I could see even using it in my science classes. Describe the most interesting/signfiicant/relevant part of this graph in one sentence.

chichimama said...

What great advice and what a fabulous exercise. Thank you for passing it along!

Anthea said...

To be able to write a concise is hard anyway but an important thing to learn. All of us should do this especially since its a good reminder for those of us who write articles and such.

Paige said...

I'm going to use that as an icebreaker in the class that's starting Monday.

Thanks!

Overeducated Twit said...

Wow. I love this idea and may bring it in to my comp classes occasionally!

concretegodmother said...

Yoink! I'm totally stealing this exercise for my AP classes when we get back from our spring break in three weeks! Awesome.

Lomagirl said...

This is a great idea. What's your sentence? Please share.

Anonymous said...

This is great. I could even use a version of this for my speech classes. Wish I had a writing instructor like you.