Feed on

At ten o’clock at night in the second to last week of class, I feel as bone-tired as my bleary-eyed students. Strangely, though, I cannot wait for my Friday class. Why? We play SENTENCE CLINIC tomorrow.

Write down two sentences from your paper or journals we will discuss today:

1. A sentence that you think worked well, one that makes you feel proud (Why do you like this sentence?)
2. A sentence that never quite worked, one that we will look at in the sentence clinic (Why do you think this sentence does not work?)

Tonight, chuckling to myself, I devour their responses. They LOVE their good sentences, and they know exactly why they are good: flow, analysis, emphasis, brevity, strong verbs, complexity, and clarity, precisely capturing an idea. My students revel in their best sentences. They have worked hard all semester, draft after draft, paper after paper, workshop after workshop, conference after conference, and their pride shines as they write:

I think this sentence perfectly demonstrates how succinctness, brevity, and lack of “to be” verbs creates a coherent, flowing, sentence.

Additionally, it does not contain any code words like important, vital, essential, etc; it rather specifies what makes the situation so.

I like it mainly because it took me a long time and a lot of effort to get it to sound quite right. I think it flows well, doesn’t include any “to be” verbs, and lays the outline for my paper perfectly. It’s a complex sentence and expresses specifically everything that my paper will talk about. It addresses the characters directly and gives specific proof.

This is also a sentence where I am “analyzing,” and we all know how important analyzing is (especially with Mrs. B!)

I think this sentence flows and I like the content conveyed in it.

It is the final sentence of one of my body paragraphs from my P&P essay and I think it brings the paragraph together really well with good grammar and no “to be” verbs.

I like this sentence because it is my first ‘love it’ from Mrs B. The sentence itself is not very extraordinary except for six words that I used within it to describe Elizabeth’s feelings for Mr Darcy.

But, oh—they loved to hate their bad sentences so:

First of all, there’s a dangling participle. The second clause of the sentence is placed next to “talents” but it isn’t describing talents, it’s describing Mr. Woodhouse’s behavior. Secondly, it contains a “to be” verb (“all that is good”). It also, begins, instead of ends, with new information. And finally, I just don’t like the way it sounds.

This sentence is bad because the known information should be at the beginning of the sentence, but it’s not.

The structure of this sentence and its resulting length render it unclear and awkward. . . The ending of the sentence seems so wordy and strangely ordered that it just does not sound harmonious when reading it out loud or to myself.

First of all, semicolon. Second of all, my participle doesn’t agree with the whole sentence. Third, I wrote pretend and intend in the same sentence. Re-reading this, I was wondering what I was thinking. This sentence needs to go to the sentence clinic.

Not counting their summer journal, they post their 22nd journal entry tonight on SEGUE before midnight. Tomorrow, we will tackle the sentences that have arrived bruised and bleeding to the clinic, but as I read the online journals tonight, I marvel at both how much my students have learned and how playful they can still be at this point of the semester. As I sit here, with the computer warm in my lap, I wait for each entry to drop until all fifteen have responded by midnight. Their on-line entries motivate and challenge me. In less than twelve hours, the sentence doctors will show up for class, and I can’t wait to teach them again.

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