Practice Sentence Variety | EL Education Curriculum

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Focus Standards: These are the standards the instruction addresses.

  • RL.6.5, L.6.3a

Supporting Standards: These are the standards that are incidental—no direct instruction in this lesson, but practice of these standards occurs as a result of addressing the focus standards.

  • RL.6.1, RL.6.10, RI.6.10, W.6.3d, W.6.5

Daily Learning Targets

  • I can analyze how chapter 28 fits into the overall structure and contributes to the development of the plot of Two Roads. (RL.6.5)
  • I can vary sentence patterns for meaning and style. (L.6.3a)
  • I can share my independent research reading with my peers. (RL.6.10, RI.6.10)

Ongoing Assessment

  • Opening A: Entrance Ticket (L.6.3a)
  • Work Time A: Gist on sticky notes


AgendaTeaching Notes

1. Opening

A. Engage the Learner - L.6.3a (5 minutes)

2. Work Time

A. Read Two Roads, Chapter 28 - RL.6.5 (10 minutes)

B. Mini Lesson: Sentence Variety - L.6.3a (15 minutes)

3. Closing and Assessment

A. Share Independent Research Reading - RL.6.10, RI.6.10 (15 minutes)

4. Homework

A. Preread Anchor Text: Students preread chapter 29 in Two Roads in preparation for studying this chapter in the next lesson.

Alignment to Assessment Standards and Purpose of Lesson

  • L.6.3a – Opening A: Students complete an entrance ticket in which they practice combining a series of short sentences into longer sentences to improve meaning and style.
  • RL.6.5 – Work Time A: After reading chapter 28 of Two Roads, students answer questions about how the chapter functions within the larger structure of the novel and helps to develop the plot.
  • L.6.3a – Work Time B: Students participate in a mini lesson on sentence variety. They compare a scene from chapter 28 of the text to an altered version in which all the sentences are the same length, and they examine the stylistic effects of sentence variety.
  • The research reading that students complete for homework helps build both their vocabulary and knowledge pertaining to American Indian boarding schools. By participating in this volume of reading over time, students will develop a wide base of knowledge about the world and the words that help describe and make sense of it.

Opportunities to Extend Learning

  • Introduce students to different types of sentences (simple, compound, complex, compound-complex) and how they are constructed using proper punctuation (commas and semicolons). Use magnetic poetry kits or a similar type of manipulative to have students construct the different types of sentences for variety and interest.
  • Task students with hunting down particularly interesting sentences in a text of their choosing. Push them to explain why they chose their sentences and what it was about the author’s use of structure or word choice that made the sentence particularly effective. If productive, invite ELLs to select sentences in their home languages and interpret them for the class. ▲
  • Students who show great interest in and advanced knowledge of the module may serve as discussion captains during the independent research reading share.

How It Builds on Previous Work

  • In the previous lesson, students completed the Mid-Unit 2 Assessment, answering selected response and short constructed response questions about how Cal responds and his point of view changes as a result of the challenges he faces. In the second half of this unit, students will read several more chapters of Two Roads, analyzing point of view, character, and plot development, as well as central idea and emerging themes of the novel.

Support All Students

  • Students may lack some context to fully understand chapter 28, which describes Cal's time hopping trains to reach Pop in Washington DC. This chapter, and the chapters that follow, reference some of the skills and attitudes that Cal developed from his time on the road with Pop. Having skipped some of the earliest chapters of the novel, which first introduce this part of Cal's character, students may need help filling in context. Before students begin reading chapter 28, consider reminding them of Cal and Pop's history as "knights of the road."
  • ELLs may struggle to produce longer sentences during Work Time B that are still clear and grammatically accurate. Reference past Language Dives and direct students to the Language Chunk wall to show them chunks of language that they can use to extend and elaborate on their ideas. ▲
  • Also, different languages have different syntactic rules or conventions. For this reason, some ELLs may be more familiar than others with the idea of combining, adding to, and/or varying sentences. Invite students to reflect in writing or share in triads their understanding of sentence variety in their home languages. Work with students to locate conventions that are similar across English and their home languages. This exercise will further demonstrate the value of students’ home languages as a resource for learning the syntactic expectations of English. ▲
  • As students collaborate during the mini lesson: Sentence Variety of Work Time B, use strategic combinations of Conversation Cues to help them process language internally, elaborate on their ideas, and expand the conversation. ▲ For example,
    • “I’ll give you time to think and write or sketch.” (Goal 1)
    • “Can you say more about that?” (Goal 1)
    • “Why do you think that?” (Goal 3)
    • “Do you agree or disagree with what your classmate said?” (Goal 4)
    • “How does our discussion add to your understanding of sentence variety?” (Goal 3)

Assessment Guidance

  • Reiterate to students that simple sentences are not necessarily ineffective just because they are short. Simple sentences have their purpose in crafting interesting and effective texts. Similarly, students should not aim to only write detailed, complex sentences. Discuss with students when each type of sentence makes sense to use and remind them that variety is the key to keeping their reader engaged.

Down the Road

  • In the next lesson, students will continue to practice varying sentence patterns to add interest and style to their writing by participating in a Final Word protocol. This activity will further develop students’ ability to enhance simple sentences with greater detail and vivid words.

In Advance

  • Prepare
    • Sentence Variety anchor chart. On chart paper, write the title, description and sentence frame as shown on the Sentence Variety anchor chart (for teacher reference).
    • Independent Reading Sample Plans document (see Tools page) or use another independent reading routine.
  • Preread chapter 28 of Two Roads to identify potentially challenging vocabulary or plot points.
  • Review the new materials used in this lesson to ensure clarity about what students will need to know and be able to do.
  • Prepare copies of handouts for students (see Materials list).
  • Post the learning targets and applicable anchor charts (see Materials list).

Tech and Multimedia

  • Work Time B: Display a brief, age-appropriate video to demonstrate the effectiveness of sentence variety, and introduce students to different types of sentences (simple, complex, and compound). 

Supporting English Language Learners

Supports guided in part by CA ELD Standards 6.I.B.6, 6.II.B.5, 6.II.C.6, and 6.II.C.7.

Important Points in the Lesson Itself

  • To support ELLs, this lesson includes a mini lesson on sentence variety. Students use the Sentence Sameness: Two Roads, Chapter 28 handout to analyze a paragraph from Two Roads whose sentences have been rewritten to all be the same length. Hearing these sentences read aloud during Work Time B will help ELLs better understand the relationship between sentence variety and the overall style and interest of a text. The mini lesson also includes built-in opportunities for students to act out parts of the paragraph they analyze. Though intended as a playful way for students to think about the action of a text, acting out scenes from the book or seeing classmates do so may also help reinforce comprehension of the text overall.
  • ELLs may find it challenging to understand the concept of sentence variety, especially if their home languages have rules or patterns that lead to significantly more or less varied sentences. Invite students to talk about general rules for sentence variety in their home languages. Are there authors or poets they enjoy who strategically use sentence variety as well?


  • interjection (DS)


(A): Academic Vocabulary

(DS): Domain-Specific Vocabulary

Materials from Previous Lessons



  • Homework: Practice Pronoun Case: Two Roads Chapter 24 (example for teacher reference) (from Module 3, Unit 2, Lesson 7, Homework A)
  • Text Guide: Two Roads (for teacher reference) (from Module 3, Unit 1, Lesson 2, Work Time A)
  • Gist anchor chart: Two Roads (one for display; from Module 3, Unit 1, Lesson 1, Work Time C)
  • Gist anchor chart: Two Roads (example for teacher reference) (from Module 3, Unit 1, Lesson 1, Work Time C)
  • Independent Reading Sample Plans (for teacher reference) (see Teaching Notes)
  • Work to Become Ethical People anchor chart (one for display; from Module 1, Unit 1, Lesson 1, Work Time C)
  • Homework: Practice Pronoun Case: Two Roads, Chapter 24 (example for teacher reference) (from Module 3, Unit 2, Lesson 7, Homework A)
  • Two Roads (text; one per student; from Module 3, Unit 1, Lesson 1, Opening A)

New Materials



  • Entrance Ticket: Unit 2, Lesson 8 (example for teacher reference)
  • Sentence Sameness: Two Roads, Chapter 28 (one for display)
  • Sentence Variety anchor chart (co-created in Work Time B) (see In Advance)
  • Sentence Variety anchor chart (example for teacher reference)
  • Entrance Ticket: Unit 2, Lesson 8 (one per student)
  • Sticky notes (one per student)
  • Synopsis: Two Roads, Chapter 28 (one per student)


Each unit in the 6-8 Language Arts Curriculum has two standards-based assessments built in, one mid-unit assessment and one end of unit assessment. The module concludes with a performance task at the end of Unit 3 to synthesize students' understanding of what they accomplished through supported, standards-based writing.



A. Engage the Learner - L.6.3a (5 minutes)

  • Repeated routine: Follow the same routine as previous lessons to distribute and review the Entrance Ticket: Unit 2, Lesson 8. Refer to the Entrance Ticket: Unit 2, Lesson 8 (example for teacher reference) for possible responses.
  • Cold-call students to share their rewritten sentences from the entrance ticket. Invite students to explain their thinking.
  • Direct students to retrieve their anchor text, Two Roads. Focus students on the last sentence in chapter 27 on page 285. Call on a student to read it aloud.
  • Turn and Talk:

"Why might an author include all of the details in one sentence rather than separating them into multiple sentences like those on the entrance ticket?" (Answers will vary, but may include: The sentence is smoother when it is not interrupted by periods. The details all together combine to provide one complete image in the reader's mind of the scene. The rhythmic flow of the sentence mirrors the rhythmic movement of the horse galloping across the prairie.)

  • Using a preferred classroom routine, collect or review the answers to Homework: Practice Pronoun Case: Two Roads, Chapter 24. Refer to Homework: Practice Pronoun Case: Two Roads, Chapter 24 (example for teacher reference).
  • Repeated routine: Follow the same routine as the previous lessons to review learning targets and the purpose of the lesson, reminding students of any learning targets that are similar to or the same as previous lessons. Invite students to choose a habit of character focus for themselves for this lesson.

Work Time

Work TimeLevels of Support

A. Read Two Roads, Chapter 28 - RL.6.5 (10 minutes)

  • Repeated routine: Read chapter 28, using Text Guide: Two Roads (for teacher reference) for comprehension and vocabulary questions as needed. Students who are ready to read independently or in small groups should be released to this independence. Students continue to record the gist on sticky notes, update the Gist anchor chart: Two Roads, unpack and record unfamiliar vocabulary, and reflect on their reading as they choose. Students continue to identify how characters in the text demonstrate habits of character. Refer to the Gist anchor chart: Two Roads (example for teacher reference) and chapter synopsis as needed, as well as any other appropriate resources.
  • Gist of chapter 28: Cal escapes the school and hops on a train to Washington DC.
  • Turn and Talk:

"How does this chapter function within the structure of the novel? How does this chapter help to develop the plot of Two Roads?" (This chapter acts as a transition from life at Challagi to Cal's finding Pop in Washington. In some ways, Cal's saying goodbye to Dakota symbolizes his goodbye to Challagi. This moment of alone time allows him to reflect on that experience and prepare for what lies ahead. This small chapter is important to the plot of the novel because Cal leaving Challagi is an important part of the story; he needs to find Pop and make sure his vision does not become reality.)

  • Repeated routine: Invite students to reflect on their progress toward the relevant
  • N/A

B. Mini Lesson: Sentence Variety – L.6.3a (15 minutes)

  • Display Sentence Sameness: Two Roads: Chapter 28. Explain that this is one way the author, Joseph Bruchac, could have written this scene from chapter 28. Read the paragraph aloud.
  • Turn and Talk:

“What do you notice about the sentences in this paragraph?” (The sentences are all of similar length. All of the sentences have a similar beginning. The paragraph describes the plot of the chapter in a literal way but does not add any figurative language. The paragraph is boring.)

  • Direct students to skim pages 290 and 291 of Two Roads, starting at “I haven’t yet heard . . .” until the end of the chapter.
  • Ask:

“Is the Sentence Sameness paragraph inaccurate? Does it stray from the plot of the chapter?” (No.)

“Why, then, is Bruchac’s version more effective than the displayed paragraph?” (Bruchac’s version adds more detail. The sentences are of varying lengths. The words are more precise and vivid. The figurative language creates an image in the reader’s mind.)

  • Remind students that they have been experimenting with sentence structure since Module 1. One of the main goals of Language Dives, for example, is to help them unpack complex syntax in compelling sentences. Sentences, like the ones featured in Language Dives, that showcase of variety of sentence patterns enhance a text’s meaning and the reader’s interest.
  • Focus students on these sentences from the chapter, and call on a student to read it aloud:
    • “I walk down along the tracks, staying low to keep from being seen. I almost trip over a pile of tools, left by some careless workmen — a five-foot long claw bar, a track chisel, and a wrench” (290).
  • Invite a few students to act out these sentences, incorporating props if they wish.
  • Ask:

“What purpose did the details in these sentences serve for the reader?” (It made it easier to visualize the scene. It helped to establish the setting by naming the types of tools you would find at a railyard. It heightened the suspense by emphasizing the importance ofCal not being seen or heard.)

  • Focus students on these sentences from the chapter, and call on a student to read it aloud:
    • “The screech of the train whistle cuts through the still dawn air. So loud it would make most men jump, but not an experienced knight of the road like me” (290).
  • Turn and Talk:

“How does the author utilize sensory language in these sentences? What purpose does this technique serve in these sentences?” (The author appeals to the reader’s sense of hearing by describing the train whistle using the words “screech” and “cut.” The use of sensory language brings the scene to life, allowing the reader to feel present.)

  • Explain that sentences do not have to be complex or wordy to be effective. Point to the single word “Yes!” on page 290 and the single word “Now!” on page 291. Explain that these words are functioning as interjections. An interjection is a word or expression that shows strong feeling; it is a word that a person might exclaim.
  • Turn and Talk:

“How do these single word interjections add meaning to the scene?” (They show a burst of emotion and add a sense of urgency. When Cal thinks “Yes!” he’s extremely relieved to discover that a train will be arriving soon because he needs to get away from the train station and Challagi as soon as possible. When he thinks “Now!”, he has chosen the exact moment when he needs to start sprinting toward the train. If he doesn’t catch that train, he risks being caught as a runaway from Challagi.)

  • Focus students on this sentence from the chapter, and call on a student to read it aloud:
    • “I’m on my way” (291).
  • Point out that, again, this is a simple but effective sentence.
  • Turn and Talk:

“Why does this simple statement make an effective ending to this chapter?” (The sentence is succinct and declarative. It provides a definitive ending to this chapter and to this section of the text which has been focused on Cal’s time at Challagi. It makes clear that Cal has accomplished his mission of leaving Challagi and heading for Pop.)

  • Focus students on the Sentence Variety anchor chart.
  • Turn and Talk:

“Based on the sentences we examined today, what are some ways that a writer can add more variety into their sentence patterns to enhance meaning, engage reader interest, and add style?”

  • Call on students to share their ideas and add them to the anchor chart. Refer to the Sentence Variety anchor chart (example for teacher reference).

For Lighter Support

  • During Work Time B, during the mini lesson on sentence variety, invite ELLs who need lighter support to practice reading each sentence from their Sentence Sameness handouts aloud with a partner before hearing them read aloud with the class.

For Heavier Support

  • During Work Time B, as the paragraph on the Sentence Sameness handout is read aloud, ask ELLs who need heavier support to repeat each sentence after it is read aloud. Encourage students to notice the similarity in the rhythm of the sentences. Support students' understanding of sentence rhythm by inviting them to use their pens or fingers as "conductor's batons" to illustrate in the air how the sentences sound.

Closing & Assessments


A. Share Independent Research Reading - RL.6.10, RI.6.10 (15 minutes)

  • Refer to the Independent Reading Sample Plans to guide students through a research reading share or use another routine.
  • Remind students that the purpose of research reading is to build their content knowledge, domain-specific vocabulary, and achievement on reading complex texts. As necessary, use the Work to Become Ethical People anchor chart to review integrity. Students demonstrate integrity by keeping up with their independent research reading even though it can be challenging.
  • Repeated routine: Invite students to reflect on their habit of character focus for this lesson.



A. Preread Anchor Text

  • Students preread chapter 29 in Two Roads in preparation for studying this chapter in the next lesson.

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