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Strategies to develop sentence complexity

Last Friday I presented a workshop called, “Priming & Coding: Strategies to develop sentence complexity within narrative constructions”. The idea behind this concept is that we can assist children to write better stories by empowering them with the knowledge of how grammatical devices work to create atmosphere, detail and imagery within a narrative.

All too often, our students with Specific Learning Disorders such as Dyslexia and Dysgraphia write simple and basic stories because the whole prospect of putting ideas down on paper is daunting and difficult for them.

So, armed with that notion, we decided to “take the bull by the horns” and we started teaching our clients about grammar - not in a stodgy old boring way, but in a meaningful, interesting and functional way!!

It has been an amazing experience to witness how easily our young students have learned about complex concepts like “upgrading verbs” or “inserting adverbs of time and place to set the scene” or “developing emotional responses of the main character through adjectives and verbs”.

The wonderful thing about teaching conventional grammar within the context of story writing is that we can take opportunities to employ grammatical devices that really make a difference to the quality of the story. If a child wants to create drama, then it is important to choose verbs that create that kind of atmosphere. If they want to explain why a character is responding in a particular way, they need to use the appropriate adjective to capture that emotion.

Once students begin to understand the “power” of grammar, they are “turned on” to the whole system and can deliberately manipulate their language to create the sort of story that they intended to construct.

This makes writing pleasurable rather than painful!

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