Teach Writing: Expanding Sentences

Write Better Sentences

Writing skill: sentence fluency

ESL students sometimes write text with too many short sentences. Short sentences are not bad. They are especially useful when the writer wants to add a bit of style with different sentence lengths. But too many short sentences can lead to boring text. This short writing activity helps students fix that problem.


Step 1. Explain the problem with too many short sentences.

Step 2. Look at the pictures in the storyboard Dog and Sausage

Step 3. Review sample paragraph below based on the first image in that series. Notice how the paragraph has many short sentences.

There is a boy. He is walking on the street. He is carrying a basket. There is a dog behind him. The dog is looking at the basket. The basket has some sausage.

Step 4. One way to fix the problem is to expand a short sentence. Expand means make it longer by adding descriptive details.

Review telescopic text maker as an example of how a short sentence can be made better. Click here for an example.

Step 5. Ask students to write 2 or 3 short sentences for each image in the Dog and Sausage story. Then ask them to expand their sentences with details, just like the model in the telescopic text example.

Step 6. Before students start the writing assignment, show them a revised description of the text. It might go something like this:

A tall, thin boy wearing an apron and cap is walking on the sidewalk outside a butcher shop. He is carrying a large basket filled with ham and sausages. A dog is standing at the corner. He is looking at the sausages hanging out of the basket. The dog has an idea.


The output of this writing assignment will be a 1 to 2 page narrative. The main teaching objective is to help students notice if and when they are using too many short sentences and provide them with the knowledge they need to fix these stylish errors independently.

Teach writing?

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