K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

Learn more

Related pages

  • Slow motion replay: Students will learn to use slow motion replay of a moment in a narrative to make it easier for the reader to feel that he or she is actually experiencing the event.
  • Sentence combining and decombining: Students will focus on stylistic choices and sentence fluency by combining, decombining, and recombining sentences in professional writing, peer writing, and their own writing.
  • The ABCs of the Three Little Pigs: This lesson uses a familiar fairy tale to teach writing. It is designed to emphasize using varied sentence patterns in writing.

Related topics


Please read our disclaimer for lesson plans.


The text of this page is copyright ©2008. See terms of use. Images and other media may be licensed separately; see captions for more information and read the fine print.

Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • analyze an author’s style.
  • practice sentence combining.
  • verbalize at least one strategy to combine sentences.
  • make observations about how the author structured the sentences in her opening paragraph.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

1 hour


  • A copy of “Beach People, Mountain People” by Suzanne Britt. This essay was original published during the 1970’s in the Raleigh News & Observer and can be found in her collection of essays entitled Show and Tell.
  • Overhead transparency of model sentences for each sentence-combining strategy.
  • Overhead transparency of Model Sentences
  • Overhead transparency of Sentence Combining
  • Overhead transparency of the first paragraph of “Beach People, Mountain People.”
  • Blank overhead transparencies and markers
  • Paper and pencil

Technology resources

Overhead Projector.



Using the transparency of Model Sentences, demonstrate each of the following strategies for combining sentences:

  1. Take out repeated phrases.
  2. “Stack” adjectives together.
  3. Put sentences together using a conjunction.
  4. Use an introductory phrase.
  5. Don’t always start the sentence with the subject and then verb.

For example: “Kim went to the mall. She met Angie. Angie is her best friend. They have been best friends since kindergarten. Then they went to the video store. Then they went to see a movie.”

Strategy 1: “Kim met her best friend Angie at the mall. The girls, who have been best friends since kindergarten, went to the video store and then to see a movie.”

Strategy 1, 2, 3: “After Kim met Angie at the mall, the two girls, who have been best friends since kindergarten, went to the video store and then to a movie.”

Strategy 4, 5:“After meeting at the mall, Kim and Angie, who have been best friends since kindergarten, went to the video store and then to a movie.”

Guided Practice

  1. Put a transparency of Sentence Combining on the overhead.
  2. There are three sections of sentences on the transparency. Students are asked to combine the sentences in each section in any way they wish. (Students could do this individually or in groups).
  3. Ask different groups or individuals to write their new sentences on an overhead to share with the class.
  4. Ask the presenter to count how many sentences were in the original passage compared to his or her writing.
  5. Show the class the original version of the sentences written by the author. Have the students count the number of sentences she used.
  6. Ask students to explain one of the strategies they used or Britt used to combine sentences (take out repeated phrases and “stack” adjectives together; put sentences together using a conjunction, use an introductory phrase; don’t always start the sentence with the subject and then verb, etc).
  7. Ask students to explain why Britt’s last sentence in paragraph one is effective.

Follow-up Activities:

  • Ask students to read the essay, looking for interesting ways the author varies her sentence structure. Ask them to pick one sentence or section they really liked and copy it onto a transparency. Use these transparencies over the next several days to discover ways to vary sentences. Make a running list of these ways somewhere in the classroom.
  • In the next writing the students complete, ask them to incorporate at least two different ways to vary sentences. They should highlight their examples and label their strategy.


  • The student is able to reduce the number of kernel sentences during the opening exercise.
  • The student is able to explain at least one way he or she reduced the number of sentences.
  • The student can locate one or more sentences from Britt’s writing that shows interesting sentence structure.
  • The student can articulate why the sentence structure was interesting?
  • The student can successfully incorporate two strategies to achieve sentence variety.

Supplemental information


Development of this lesson plan was made possible by a grant from the North Caroliniana Society for the 2002 North Carolina Literary Festival.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Language

        • Grade 9-10
          • 9-10.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking. 9-10.L.1.1 Use parallel structure.* 9-10.L.1.2 Use various types of phrases (noun, verb, adjectival, adverbial, participial, prepositional, absolute)...
        • Reading: Informational Text

          • 9-10.RIT.5 Analyze in detail how an author’s ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs, or larger portions of a text (e.g., a section or chapter).
        • Writing

          • 9-10.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1–3 above.)
          • 9-10.W.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 9

  • Goal 6: The learner will apply conventions of grammar and language usage.
    • Objective 6.01: Demonstrate an understanding of conventional written and spoken expression that:
      • uses varying sentence types (e.g., simple, compound, complex, compound-complex) purposefully, correctly, and for specific effect.
      • selects verb tense to show an appropriate sense of time.
      • applies parts of speech to clarify and edit language.
      • addresses clarity and style through such strategies as parallelism; appropriate coordination and subordination; variety and details; appropriate and exact words; and conciseness.
      • analyzes the place and role of dialects and standard/nonstandard English.
      • uses vocabulary strategies such as roots and affixes, word maps, and context clues to discern the meanings of words.

Grade 10

  • Goal 4: The learner will critically interpret and evaluate experiences, literature, language, and ideas.
    • Objective 4.03: Analyze the ideas of others by identifying the ways in which writers:
      • introduce and develop a main idea.
      • choose and incorporate significant, supporting, relevant details.
      • relate the structure/organization to the ideas.
      • use effective word choice as a basis for coherence.
      • achieve a sense of completeness and closure.
  • Goal 6: The learner will apply conventions of grammar and language usage.
    • Objective 6.01: Demonstrate an understanding of conventional written and spoken expression by:
      • employing varying sentence structures (e.g., inversion, introductory phrases) and sentence types (e.g., simple, compound, complex, compound-complex).
      • analyzing authors' choice of words, sentence structure, and use of language.
      • using word recognition strategies to understand vocabulary and exact word choice (Greek, Latin roots and affixes, analogies, idioms, denotation, connotation).
      • examining textual and classroom language for elements such as idioms, denotation, and connotation to apply effectively in own writing/speaking.
      • using correct form/format for essays, business letters, research papers, bibliographies.
      • using language effectively to create mood and tone.