The Importance of Using Sentence Variety in Writing (and Mini-Lesson on How to Implement This in Your English/Language Arts Class)

Using sentence variety is an essential aspect of effective writing. It involves incorporating different sentence structures and lengths to create a more engaging and interesting piece of writing. Without sentence variety, writing can become monotonous and boring which causes readers to lose interest and engagement. In contrast, a writer who uses varied sentence structures can capture the reader’s attention and create a more enjoyable reading experience.

In addition to improving reader engagement, sentence variety also enhances the clarity and impact of one’s writing. By using different sentence structures, writers can emphasize key ideas, convey tone and mood, and deliver a more nuanced message. This allows writers to convey their intentions more effectively and with greater impact which makes their writing more persuasive and memorable.

Use the mini-lesson below to help your students incorporate more sentence variety in their writing:

Identify and Discuss

Have students read a piece of writing with varied sentence structures, such as an article from a news magazine or an excerpt from a novel. Then, have students identify the different sentence structures and lengths used in the piece, and discuss how they contribute to the overall impact of the writing. 

You can guide this activity with a set of highlighters and guided questions. For example, ask your students to highlight any sentence with 1-2 commas with a yellow highlighter. In partners or groups you may ask “What is the impact of this longer and more complex sentence? How does it contribute to the reader’s experience?” 

Next, students can highlight short or abrupt sentences in a different color. You  may ask a similar question – “How do these short sentences impact the article or story?” 

Lastly, have students discuss how the inclusion of multiple sentence styles create a more interesting and engaging story. “How would this article feel different if every sentence was written in the same way? Why is it important for writers to vary their sentence structures?” 

This activity can be repeated with multiple stories or articles, fiction or nonfiction, and with many different sentence styles highlighted and compared. 

Practice Your Own

After students have an understanding of different sentence styles and variety, it’s time to practice! Students can use models they have seen from articles, books, or teacher models as a starting point or they can work from a blank page without a model for a more rigorous activity. 

Creating sentences may be easier for students when provided a given topic, so consider choosing a topic for your class, or if students have a topic in which they are particularly interested, then simply let your students choose their own topic. 

Next, ask your students to produce about 2-3 written paragraphs on this topic with a goal of implementing at least 3 varieties of sentence structures. You may choose to focus on specific sentence structures, or you may request the most variation of sentence structures that students are able to generate. 

Writing can be exhausting and challenging for students, so it’s important to keep this practice chunked into timed segments and always plan for feedback at the end of practice. 

Peer Review

After about 20-30 minutes of independent student practice, it’s time for feedback! Have students peer-review each other’s writing, specifically focusing on sentence variety and offering suggestions for improvement. 

It is best practice to give students a checklist or set of criteria for success when setting up the peer feedback process. In this example, you want to focus on sentence variety, so your checklist might include something similar to the following: Two compound sentences, two complex sentences, at least one use of a short sentence, etc. 

When students give each other feedback, they should record their notes on the checklist then return it to the original student so they can then implement the feedback. 

Another tip: Give your students sentence starters for overall feedback – “Your sentences were effective when… Your sentence variety could be more effective if…” This process of peer editing not only makes students stronger writers but also prepares them to be better editors of their own work.  

By incorporating this lesson on sentence variety, students can develop a greater understanding of its importance and learn strategies for incorporating it into their own writing moving forward.

Read More

Difference Between Summary and Analysis
When You Ask for Analysis but You Get Summary Instead
It can be a challenge to get students to commit ideas to paper, let alone for them to understand how to write for different purposes or for specific audiences. You might find sometimes that you assign students to write an analysis of something they are reading only to discover that … Read more
creating confident writers
Establishing Confident Writers Through Creativity and Self-Expression
The starkness of a white, blank notebook page can be frightening. Your fingers twitch with the desire for something, anything to just spill out. For the ink to somehow read your thoughts and know exactly where to make the page full. ‍This constant feeling can be a tough cycle to break for … Read more
How to Fix Writer's Block
Brainstorming Through Writer’s Block
Whether we are beginning writers, seasoned writing instructors, or best-selling novelists, writer’s block is bound to plague us all at some point or another, and it is highly likely to show up in the middle school or high school classroom when students are journaling or beginning an essay. ‍No matter … Read more
How to Teach Adverbs
Four Steps to Teaching Your Students Adverbs
Here’s a quick kinesthetic grammar activity to introduce the topic of adverbs.  If you can pair a physical activity with a concept, studies show that retention levels among students increase.  Follow this easy, step-by-step guide to teach adverbs to your students. ‍Step 1: Ask For Two Volunteers ‍Ask for two … Read more
Internal Writing Critic
How to Fire Your Internal Critic
We all have that little voice of doubt inside of us.  You know – the one that’s constantly whispering, “Your writing stinks.  Give up on this draft while you have the chance.  You call yourself a writer?  What a laugh!”  Ah yes…now you know the voice I’m talking about. ‍We … Read more
Benefits of Daily Journaling for Students
What Just 10 Minutes of Daily Journaling Can Do for Student Writing
As you have probably already experienced at some point in your teaching career, it can be a major challenge to have your students quietly find their seats and have their materials out, let alone have them complete a warm-up exercise. ‍With seemingly less and less time and more curriculum to … Read more
How to Achieve Flow in Your Writing
The Four Levels of Flow in Writing: What it Means When Writing Flows
When conferencing with my students regarding their writing, a common request I hear, (usually after some stammering from the student) is, “I want to make sure that my writing flows.” ‍I might follow up by asking the student if he is referring to the flow between his sentences, the flow … Read more
How to correct comma splices
How to Win the War on Comma Splices
Commas have so many uses in the English language that it is no surprise comma splices appear all throughout our students’ writing. We might applaud their efforts for wanting to use this handy piece of punctuation, but when students start using commas willy-nilly and placing them wherever they like, it’s … Read more