Sentence variety is much like word choice; it is a subtle indicator of a writer’s maturity. Even if a reader doesn’t remember the three types of sentences (simple, compound, and complex), a quick reading of an essay full of simple sentences will leave him feeling it was written by a weak writer.
Although there are only three types of sentences, for the sake of teaching sentence variety and punctuation I teach five different sentence patterns.
[NOTE: I omit compound-complex sentences altogether because in my estimation, if you have learned these five basics, you can effectively mix them up later down the road without being taught how.]
Teaching sentence patterns in this way gives children a way to zero in on sentence variety while reinforcing correct punctuation. For the entire set of lessons, download the Sentence Patterns eBook on my freebies page.
How to Use Sentence Patterns for Better Essays
During the revision stage, have your child look at his sentences. Choose a paragraph in the body of the essay and label each sentence with a number indicating its pattern.
Now look at your numbers. Do the paragraphs rely heavily on the same pattern?
If so, encourage your child to inject variety. Try to mix up the sentence patterns evenly throughout the essay. Using a semicolon to create a compound sentence is a very mature style, but using it every other sentence is overkill.
Use the free printable chart linked above as a guide. Once the sentences are written in a draft, it is easy to simply rearrange or reword them to create more sentence variety. The chart helps you remember what the possible sentence patterns are (and even reminds you to add a comma where necessary).
A list of subordinating conjunctions is helpful when making complex sentences (patterns 4 & 5 in my chart), so have that handy as well. (See the freebie page for a list.)
When joining sentences together into more sophisticated sentence patterns, you may inadvertently reduce your sentence count below the accepted minimums. If that happens, simply generate more details so that you have more material to work with.
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