Walk Around in the Author’s Syntax

Nov 5, 2009 by

Writing Trait/Strategy:

Sentence fluency; conventions

Mentor Text Suggestions:


This strategy, described in Mentor Texts by Dorfman and Cappelli, is an effective way to help students try out a variety of sentence structures and help them begin to internalize language conventions. Lift an excerpt from a text such as the example below from Shortcut by Donald Crews:

I HEAR A TRAIN!” Everybody stopped.

Everybody listened.

We all heard the train whistle.

Should we run ahead to the path home or back to the cut-off?

Read the passage aloud several times so that students can hear the rhythm of the text. After discussing what they noticed, have students participate in a shared writing experience. Give them the beginning sentence and have them fill in the rest, following the pattern and syntax of the original text:


Everybody clapped.

Everybody smiled.

We all saw the waves rolling toward the shore.

Should we dash across the sand to the water’s edge

or stand here to delight in the sunrise?

After enough scaffolding has been done, invite students to try this out independently with a new sentence such as “I HEAR A WOLF!”

From Mentor Texts by Dorfman and Cappelli, 2007