Education,  Language Arts

BEYOND GRAMMAR: Strategies for Improving Sentence Fluency

Course No. ED478c, ED578c

When discussing written composition, the terms sentence fluency, syntactic fluency, syntactic maturity, and syntactic complexity are all used to describe text containing sentences with varied structures that underscore, enhance, and contribute to meaning while tying together ideas so readers progress easily from beginning to end. Sentences that possess these attributes are not only easy to comprehend, but they often have a pleasant, rhythmical quality when read aloud. This course considers the above terms interchangeable and has been designed to help teachers improve their students’ sentence fluency/syntactic maturity. But, more than being a “how to teach” course, this is a “what to teach” course. It strives to fill in the knowledge gap left by most teacher training programs when it comes to understanding the fluency errors students make and the remedial strategies they can apply.

Improving students’ sentence fluency/syntactic maturity involves more than getting students to write complex sentences: it requires students to deliberately manipulate sentence structures (independent clauses, phrases, introductory elements, parentheticals, etc.) to improve communication. Therefore, methods employed to address sentence fluency in the classroom need to be both instructive and prescriptive. First, teachers must be able to instruct students in identifying sentence structures, knowing the ways structures can be combined, and understanding how sentence structures can enhance readers’ comprehension. Secondly, teachers must be able to quickly and accurately identify sentence structure errors that impede fluency, clearly communicate the nature of the errors, and deftly prescribe appropriate revision strategies that can be applied both specifically and broadly to revise sentences and prevent future errors. 

The instructional approach presented in this course accomplishes these objectives by:

  1. Explicitly teaching basic sentence structures using English grammar terminology,
  2. Establishing reader comprehension as the single motivation for sentence complexity,
  3. Teaching students how specific sentence structures can hinder or facilitate reader comprehension,
  4. Addressing sentence fluency during the revision process, and
  5. Providing a comprehensive checklist of revision opportunities and revision strategies that students can apply to first drafts of essays or papers.

This course includes permanent access to the document “The Second Draft: The Secret to Improving Students’ Syntactic Maturity.” This resource describes the comprehension processes that must govern sentence structure, defines basic grammar terms, explains sentence-combining mechanisms, and provides a checklist of 38 revision indicators with analysis of errors and easily applied revision strategies. 

Acquiring the knowledge to help students improve their syntactic maturity is challenging. But, our students deserve instruction in this skill. As one of my former students commented at the end of the school year, “Knowing how to write well is the only thing I’ve learned that I’ll actually use the rest of my life!”

This course is appropriate for teachers in 7th - 12th grade.

All assignments in the Learning Acquisition must be completed independently. (Assignments 1-9)

We advise you to review and download the course syllabus before registering. Syllabus
  • Gained knowledge of the mental processes English readers use to comprehend written text and appreciation for how these processes should govern sentence structure
  • Acquired the ability to recognize sentence structure errors that impact reader comprehension, the language to communicate the nature of those errors to students, and knowledge of effective revision strategies students can use to fix the errors and improve reader comprehension
  • Become familiar with a list of 38 specific revision indicators and revision strategies that can be used as a classroom resource.
  • Learned a method for improving students’ syntactic maturity during the revision stage of the writing process while increasing evidence of student learning and decreasing time spent grading

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