Sentence Variety and Fluency

Author: Jill Torrey Emmons

Time: 1 class period
15 minutes
Materials: Copies of handout “Sentence Structure and Variety”, a practical grammar handbook book for student use (a class set would be ideal)


In this lesson students will review and practice using various types of sentence structure in their writing. The hope is that students will gain greater confidence and skill in using a variety of simple, compound, and complex sentences in their essays in order to enhance the flow in their language use. This is a very useful skill for young writers to acquire as it makes their ideas more clear and comprehensible to the reader. It also builds their credibility as competent authors who know what they are writing about, a persuasive skill which is invaluable.

Purpose – The goal of this lesson is for students to explore and practice using sentence types which they may or may not already be familiar with in order to create a more fluent text.

Students will be able to:
1. Identify, create, and evaluate three kinds of sentences: simple, compound, and complex.
2. Identify the purpose of various sentence types: declarative, interrogative, imperative, exclamatory, and conditional.

National English Education Standard
Standard 4: Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.

Standard 5: Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

Teacher Background
The teacher should be familiar with three of the four types of sentence construction- simple, compound, and complex sentences.

Simple sentence: composed of one independent clause. (Molly went shopping.)
Compound sentence: composed of two independent clauses. (Molly went shopping and she bought a gift).
Complex sentence: composed of an independent and a dependent clause. (Molly went shopping, but only after eating.)

The teacher should also understand the purpose of the five basic types of sentences (declarative, interrogative, imperative, exclamatory, and conditional).

Related and Resource Websites



1. This lesson begins with a focus on sentence structure. Before students come into the classroom, write starter activity on the board: “What is the difference between a simple, compound, and a complex sentence? Explain your answer and then write an example of each kind of sentence.” If using a grammar text frequently in your class, you may wish to substitute a short grammar exercise from the book on these types of sentences. Give the class about 10 minutes to complete the starter or the exercise from the text.

2. Review the answers with the class and clarify any misunderstandings. Make sure that students understand the difference between the sentence constructions, and write examples of each on the board to clarify. If you have a grammar text available, you may want to spend a few minutes reviewing simple, compound, and complex sentences. Ask the class why sentence structure might have an impact on the quality of their essay writing. Students should be aware that sentence structure greatly affects the smooth flow, “fluency”, or “readability” of their papers.

3. Once the class has a good grasp of these concepts, give each student a copy of the handout “Sentence Structure and Variety”. Depending on your class needs, you may go over the handout as a whole class, have students complete the exercises in pairs, or work independently. Allow about 15 minutes for this portion of class. Float around the room to make sure students are on task and understanding the material.

You may wish to review the correct answers with the class just before the end of the period in order to wrap-up the lesson, or you may simply give the class time to work on their final essays.

Students should be working on their final project essays.

Embedded Assessment
The handouts should be collected and evaluated to make sure the students understand the concepts presented. Also, the final essay should demonstrate variety in sentence structure.


PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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