to Strengthen Writing
North Star Writing Project
June 21, 2005
What led to the use of
the ‘Super Sentence?’
• A room full of beginning
• Needing to apply the parts of
• To creative sentence
• And don’t forget…TAKS is
According to KP…
STRUCTURE + THINKING+ CREATIVITY =
• Use of the senses to facilitate figurative language
• Building stamina while adding to length of text
• A link to TAKS objective testing
• A bridge to WRITING poetry
• Students with high self-esteem KNOWING they are
“We are sometimes faced in the
classroom with unskilled writers who…
lack a sense of form at all levels—
word, sentence, paragraph,
and entire work.
If this is the case, I would argue that
valuable imitative approaches
should be used widely and
unapologetically in the
Paul Butler, “Imitation as Freedom” (2002)
“The storage of
solid language patterns in the brain
is of utmost importance for the
development of excellent speaking
and writing skills.
How is this done?
Obviously, by imitation!”
Andrew Pudewa, “Imitation: A Common Sense Approach” (2000)
4th grade TEKS/TAKS taught…
• Write to express, develop, reflect,
and problem solve (15A/TAKS 1)
• Write to entertain such as to
compose poems or stories
• Exhibit an identifiable voice in
personal narriative and in stories
• Employ standard English Usage in
writing, including subject-verb
agreement, pronoun referents, and
parts of speech (18C/TAKS 2,5)
• Use adjectives and adverbs
appropriately to make writing vivid or
precise (18D/TAKS 2,5)
• Use prepositional phrases to
elaborate written ideas (18E/TAKS
• Develop drafts by organizing
paragraphs, and blending
paragraphs within larger units of
• Revise drafts by adding,
elaborating, combining, and
rearranging text (19C/TAKS 1,3)
• Edit drafts for specific purposes
such as appropriate word choice
• Apply criteria to evaluate writing
• Collaborate with others to compose
and revise various types of text
“Although it is true that students learn many
things inductively through meaningful
literacy experiences, instruction is important.
Effective teachers do teach
strategies and skills.”
“Carefully planned instruction may be
especially important for minority students.
Many students who grew up outside the
dominant culture are at a disadvantage when
certain knowledge, strategies, and skills
expected by teachers are not made explicit
in their classrooms. Explicitness is crucial
because people from different cultures have
different sets of understandings.”
Tompkins, 2004 (PP. 103, 104)
“You’ll find that students can become
good fixers of their own material…
if you work on one skill at a time.”
“How do you work them into
the business of buildiing writers?
Here are a few ways I like…
Visit separate writing skills within
regular language lessons…
Re-visit those language skills during
Sneak little lessons into individual
Plan mini-lessons on specific writing
Marjorie Frank, 1995 (PP. 129, 130)
The fish was slimy.
The rainbow fish felt like
slippery, slimy goo
squirming through my small hands.
Cianna and Kendyl
The dolphins kept jumping as we got to the dock.
The dolphins looked like small,
gray sausages leaping effortlessly
as we approached the dock.
I felt very happy.
I felt like a golden wrapper swirling and floating
in the clear sky on a summer day.
“Teaching students to add specific details begins with
helping them to see image qualities in two of the
simplest grammatical structures: nouns and verbs…
Yet ironically, professionals with years of writing
experience find these simple structures to be the
overlooked engines that power good writing…When
students discover this truth, their writing is
transformed into vivid photography.”
“Prepositions link additional noun images.
These noun images, in turn, bring adjectives.
The combination provides more details,
color, sound, and so on.”
“Metaphors and similes generate an
image webbing pattern in the reader’s mind,
where added power comes from one image linking to
another to another.”
Harry Noden, 1999 (PP. 26, 32, 34)
Before teaching the
‘Super Sentence’ process…
• Color code and use the Sentence Building patterns in How to
Teach Students to be Fluent Writers (Ross).
• Time and time again, identify strong verbs, adjectives, and
figurative language in rich, read-aloud text.
• Always have students log all strong verbs, adjectives and
figurative language into their ‘Write-Stuff’ folders as a
personal writing source. These can be identified by teachers,
the students themselves, or at home with parents.
• During writing conferences, challenge students to revise their
work using stronger verbs, adjectives, and figurative
• Reward students who bring magazines, books, newspapers, or
any other kind of printed text containing strong verbs,
adjectives, or figurative language found outside of class.
After the process…
• Demonstrate the use of ‘super sentences’ in
modeled, shared, and guided writing.
• Require the use of super sentences in independent
• Incorporate Noden’s Image Grammar strategies to
enrich the ‘Super Sentence’ structure.
• Allow the students to experiment with vatieties of
their own, which might include, rearrangement or
• Apply these learned strategies to poetry.
“(Revision) changes that
significantly influence meaning occur
at three levels:
and whole composition level.”
Ronald Cramer, 2001 (P. 108)
Students then write…
I felt like a golden wrapper rolling down a
long, sparkling hill.”
A butterfly is an angel flying quietly
through the whispering wind and
waving her flattering wings through
the colorful flowers.
My face was as red as a rose,
it felt like a flaming fire, and the coach
zoomed over to help me.
Venus Fly Trap
sticking, protecting, attacking
dry area plant
Cinquain based on science lesson
My loving mother
a chorus of little,
in a stick and grass nest
at the top
of the giant oak tree.
Free Verse inside a Mother’s Day card
revising is complex,
I have no doubt
children can handle it.
Move them beyond
a surface view of revision.
Teach them that revision
is the heart and soul of writing.”
Ronald Cramer (2001), P. 108
What about extensions?
• Use appropriate grade-level composition and
grammarTEKS to build imitation structures,
especially in elementary and middle levels.
• For higher levels, use sentences from literature,
have students identify the structure, and them
imitate this in their own examples and
compositions, for example…
What separates Poe from the phrenologists,
who were right in conceiving of a divided brain
but wrong in labeling its parts,
is his keen understanding region of the mind.
[subject + relative clause + linking verb + complement]
What do students say after using
‘Super Sentences’ with ease?
“Writing makes me feel like
relaxing in a wiggly, jiggly waterbed!”
“I really have to stretch my brain and think.”
“Now, it’s way easy for me.”
“I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot this year.”
“When I write, I feel that I have already got a 100!”
“I am inspired to become a writer!”
“Writing makes me express myself
and it shows how you feel about things.”
“I feel excited and happy. It’s cool to just throw out those
adjectives! Ms. Page is the Writing God!”
“Writing ISN’T taught by saying,
and then scoring what kids
already know how to do.
It IS taught
by offering challenging directions,
and providing endless examples
that open doors
to original expression.”
Marjorie Frank (1995) P. 74
Butler, P. (2002). “Imitation as Freedom: (Re)Forming
Student Writing.” The Quarterly.
Cleary, B. (2004). I and You and Don’t Forget Who…What
is a Pronoun? Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books, Inc.
Cleary, B. (2002). Under, Over, By the Clover…What is a
Preposition? Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books, Inc.
Cramer, R. (2001). Creative Power-The Nature and
Nurture of Children’s Writing. New York: Addison
Frank, M. (1979). If You’re Trying to Teach Kids How to
Write…you’ve gotta have this book! (2nd ed.).
Nashville, TN: Incentive Publications, Inc.
Noden, H. (1999). Image Grammar: Using Grammatical
Structures to Teach Writing. Portsmouth, NH:
Pudewa, A. (2000) “Imitation: A Common Sense
Approach.” Atascadero, CA: Institute for Excellence in
Ross, B. (1996). How to Teach Students to be Fluent
Writers. Westminster, CA: Teacher Crafted Materials,
Tompkins, G. E.(2004). Teaching writing: Balancing
process and product (4th ed.). New Jersey: Pearson