Sunday, January 5, 2014

Start Strong!

Start Strong
Any point in the school year, but especially from January to the end of the academic year, is a perfect time for students to review their past few months' writing accomplishments and to analyze areas where they can strengthen their work.

Start Strong! offers teachers three activities that they can use when they want their students to proofread their writing, and to revise and rewrite segments with a specific goal in mind. The objective of each of these activities is to Start Strong! in any of their writing.

Activity topics include:
  1. Vary Sentence Beginnings
  2. Booming Beginnings vs. Fizzling Beginnings, and
  3. Reel Them In!
In Vary Sentence Beginnings, students choose the first twenty sentences from one of their papers and
Vary Sentence Beginnings
number each sentence. On the activity sheet, they write the first word of each sentence on the line by the corresponding numbers. If any two consecutive sentences begin with the same word, they are to revise one of them so it begins with a different word. Finally, they must write their revised sentence on the line beside the word that they changed.

Booming Beginnings vs. Fizzled Beginnings

Booming Beginnings vs. Fizzled Beginning, the second activity, asks students to look through their papers for places where they started sentences with and, but, so, then or well. This exercise reminds them that in some casual writing, such as blogs, tweets and status updates, using these words is acceptable, but not in most other pieces.  After that, they are to find examples in their writing portfolio where they have used these sentence joiners as sentence starters, and then revise them so their sentences begin with a boom, not a fizzle.

Finally, in Reel Them In!, students are reminded that good writers know that they must snag readers with the
Reel Them In!
first few sentences. If they don’t, chances are the piece will sink into oblivion. When they think of the lead sentences as a fishing hook, and every word that forms each sentence as the bait, their writing will lure readers to the writer’s world. Readers are more apt to keep reading if the writer grabs their attention.
Note-the first two pages with this FREE activity are from my book, The House of Comprehension (37-39).  To read about the whole teaching program this book offers, and to get the Reel Them In! activity (The House of Comprehension 40), see 

Aligned with Common Core Standards and Bloom's Taxonomy, this trio empowers students to assess their pieces while using their higher level thinking skills with the goal of strengthening their writing beginnings. Download this FREE product from

Happy Teaching,

P.S. Because I try to follow the same criteria that I ask my students to do, I proofread and revised this post so each of the 20 sentences in it begin with a different word.  Talk about a challenge!

How do your expectations for your students test your skills?