Encourage English Learners to Write Longer Sentences

Try this fun, practical exercise with your English language learners. It is a wonderful exercise to encourage English Learners at all levels to expand their writing by including more details. Use this fun exercise a couple of times a week to develop better writing.

First, review the poster and point out how different details answer each question. Next, write a two-word sentence on the board.  With the help of the students, expand the sentence to answer all the questions. The result might look something like this.

  • It ran. (initial prompt)
  • Just now a black squirrel ran quickly up the tree because a dog barked.

Next, divide students into small groups of three to four and give them a new subject-verb sentence to stretch. They labor together to write one sentence with details for about five minutes. Meanwhile, walk around the room listening, observing, and answering questions. This will give you insight into your students' strengths and weaknesses.

Lastly, write each group's sentence on the board and review how each detail answers a question. Encourage students by pointing out grammar and vocabulary that is used correctly. Allow students copy these sentences and spend time reviewing them later. Most groups will produce regular sentences, but there is always a group which produces a humorous sentence such as

  • On Christmas night, Santa Claus ate Lo Mein with chopsticks on the roof because he was hungry.

This fun, simple exercise causes English language learners to remember to include more details in all of their writing assignments. It also teaches them how to use grammar in context. Students will often debate where to place adverbs, prepositional phrases, and commas. They deliberate over which words to use for adjectives or adverbs.

In addition to improving writing and grammar, this simple exercise also promotes speaking and listening skills through discussion. Often, students will tell a story to influence the direction of a sentence. Sometimes they go off-topic and simply enjoy talking. This is a positive outcome because it builds community and friendships which are extremely valuable to English learners.

I hope you will try this fun and productive exercise in you class.  Happy Teaching!


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