Back to Basics: Sentence Combining

Welcome to our Back to Basics series! In this series we explore some of the foundational methods, practices and terminology for teaching reading and writing. This series is for those new to the field of literacy, beginning tutors or those who would just like a refresher. This week we discuss sentence combining.

Sentence combining is a great exercise that encourages emerging writers to construct more complex sentences and improve the quality of their writing. This exercise helps students learn grammar in a less traditional way. It’s learned in use rather than just memorizing parts of speech. The goal is not to simply create longer sentences, but rather more compelling sentences. The fun part about this exercise is that there are no right answers, just better ones.

“Combining sentences encourages a writer to take two or more short, choppy sentences and combine them into one effective sentence.” – Reading Rockets

Teaching Combining Sentences

To begin, tutors should offer learners an introduction to the exercise and guide them through the process. Model for the learner how you would combine two simple sentences using connecting words or by removing excess words. Remember to practice thinking aloud. Practice combining just two sentences before progressing to longer ones. An example could be:

“She went to work. She did not want to go.”

Focus on the effectiveness and the meaning produced by combining the sentences. Don’t focus too much on spelling or other more technical issues. After they’ve got the hang of it, have the learner practice combining sentences on their own.

Practicing sentence combining not only improves learners’ writing skills, but also their ability to understand more complex passages while reading. Sentence combining can help learners get out of the habit of writing using the same sentence structure. This allows them to be more creative and write in more interesting ways. To learn more about sentence combining, take a look through the resources below.


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