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CRAFTING SENTENCES IN NARRATIVE FICTION . Teaching GRAMMAR FOR WRITING. Word class?. cold striking escape wind swirl. ‘This is the third cold I’ve had this winter.’ ‘That’s a very striking coat you’re wearing.’ ‘Any attempt at escape is useless.’ ‘You really know how to wind me up!’

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crafting sentences in narrative fiction

CRAFTING SENTENCES IN NARRATIVE FICTION

Teaching GRAMMAR FOR WRITING

word class
Word class?

cold

striking

escape

wind

swirl

‘This is the third cold I’ve had this winter.’

‘That’s a very striking coat you’re wearing.’

‘Any attempt at escape is useless.’

‘You really know how to wind me up!’

‘Finish with a swirl of cream.’

word classes in context
Word classes in context

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.

Nineteen Eighty Four, George Orwell

slide4
Aims
  • To explore ways of teaching students about sentence construction and sentence variation
  • To consolidate teachers’ subject knowledge about sentences
  • To plan for teaching sentence variety in the context of narrative fiction
slide5

Grammar is what gives sense to language… Sentences make words yield up their meanings. Sentences actively create sense in language and the business of the study of sentences is the study of grammar.

David Crystal, Rediscover Grammar

Conscious manipulation of syntax deepens engagement and releases invention.

Ted Hughes

some basics
Some basics
  • What is the difference between a phrase, a clause and a sentence?
finite verbs
Finite Verbs
  • Necessary to create a main clause and therefore a sentence.
  • They are inflected for person, number and tense (so changing the tense of a passage is an easy way to find most of them).
  • Modal verbs are also finite (would, could, may etc).
  • Imperatives are finite (Stay! Sit! Eat!).
  • In a string of verbs, the first verb is the finite one.
find the finite verbs
Find the finite verbs…

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.

Nineteen Eighty Four, George Orwell

the sentence
The Sentence

Simple sentence

  • one clause containing a finite verb (main clause)

Compound sentence

  • two or more coordinated main clauses

Complex sentence

  • one main clause and one or more subordinate clauses
simple sentence
Simple sentence
  • One clause containing a finite verb.
  • A simple sentence can be any length.

The detective hurried along the street.

The detective hurried along the rain-swept streets, his hands deep in his pockets.

With his hands deep in his pockets one cold November night, the detective from New York hurried anxiously along the half-deserted, rain-swept streets, a troubled frown on his face.

identify the simple sentences
Identify the simple sentences

I was just pushing the lower half of the ladder back up when I heard it. There was someone at the front door. I held my breath. It was OK. They couldn’t get in. I slid my hand into my pocket to make sure the key was still there. It wasn’t. I’d left it in the front door. I could hear it turning in the lock now. I raced back up the ladder and hauled it after me. When I reached down to pull the hatch back up, I could hear someone coming up the stairs. I quickly pulled the hatch back into place and scrabbled over to the water tank, holding my breath.

(From Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce)

slide12
Can you add more detail to this sentence so that we have a clearer picture of the setting, characters and events? Use only one verb.
  • Choose more interesting nouns
  • (e.g. teenager, pavement)
  • Choose a more interesting verb
  • (e.g. crouched, were curled up)
  • Add more information to the verb with an adverb
  • (e.g. despairingly, together)
  • Add more information to the noun with an adjective
  • (e.g. hungry, exhausted)
  • Add more information with an adverbial phrase that tells you where, when or how something happens
  • (e.g. outside the supermarket, on a cold winter’s day, in despair)
  • Change the order of words for emphasis (e.g. by moving the adverb to the start of the sentence)

A boy and his dog sat in the road.

The house was near a road.

coordination
Coordination

and…but...or

words: bread and butterphrases: all the king’s horses and all the king’s menclauses: It’s getting late and I’m tired.words: tired but happyphrases: out of sight but not out of mindclauses: I like coffee but love tea.words: heads or tailsphrases: table d’hôte or à la carteclauses: We can eat in or we can go out.

compound sentence
Compound sentence

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

She was startled and looked at her son.

She looked at her son and was startled.

Coordinating conjunctions: and, but, or

BOYFANS but, or, yet, for, and, neither, so

sentence variety
Sentence variety

Some findings from research:

  • Weaker writers tend to chain together finite clauses, (most frequently joined with and or by comma splicing).
  • Stronger writers use a wider range of non-finite clauses to add detail, create mood and rhythm.
  • However, stronger writers also use simple sentences for effect.

(QCA, 1999; Myhill, 2001)

subordination
Subordination
  • Subordinating conjunctions join a dependent or subordinate clause to a main clause to create a complex sentence

e.g. after, although, as, as if, as long as, before, if, in case, since, unless, while, when(ever), where(ever), whereas, because

  • Make up a subordinate clause to precede the following main clause:

We didn’t wear our coats

slide17
How many different ways can you join the main clauses to the subordinate clauses? Which sentences sound the scariest?

the house seemed empty

slowly decaying

its windows boarded up

covered with ivy

smiling

a woman stood in the doorway

holding a flickering candle

beckoning me to follow her

complex sentence
Complex sentence

A subordinate clause is formed from:

  • A subordinating conjunction + finite verb

As she slid down towards the edge....

.....when I heard it.

  • A relative pronoun + finite verb

Winston, who was thirty-nine....

  • A non-finite verb (present/past participles; the infinitive)

Holding my breath....

Trapped in the attic....

To make sure the key was still there....

sentence combining
Sentence combining

The boy bit his lip. He kept back the tears. He advanced. The man raised his arm.

Combine:

  • to make compound sentences
  • to make one complex sentence
slide20

The boy, biting his lower lip so as to keep back the tears, advanced, and the man raised his arm.

From The Breadwinner, Lesley Halward

identify subordinate clauses
Identify subordinate clauses

That was when Iorek moved. Like a wave that has been building its strength

over a thousand miles of ocean, and which makes little stir in the deep water,

but which when it reaches the shallows rears itself up high into the sky,

terrifying the shore-dwellers, before crashing down on the land with irresistible

power – so Iorek Byrnison rose up against Iofur, exploding upwards from his

firm footing on the dry rock and slashing with a ferocious left hand at the

exposed jaw of Iofur Raknison.

It was a horrifying blow. It tore the lower part of his jaw clean off, so that it flew

through the air scattering blood-drops in the snow many yards away.

(Description of the bear fight in Northern Lights by Philip Pullman)

how did philip pullman do that
How did Philip Pullman do that?

IorekByrnison rose up against Iofur

Like a wave that has been building its strength over a thousand miles of

ocean, IorekByrnison rose up against Iofur

Like a wave that has been building its strength over a thousand miles of

ocean, and which makes little stir in the deep water, but which when it

reaches the shallows rears itself up high into the sky, terrifying the

shore-dwellers, before crashing down on the land with irresistible power –

so IorekByrnison rose up against Iofur,exploding upwards from his

firm footing on the dry rockand slashing with a ferocious left hand at

the exposed jaw of IofurRaknison.

conscious control for effect
‘Conscious control for effect’

And it seemed to happen so slowly, but there was nothing she could do: her weight shifted, the stones moved under her feet, and helplessly she began to slide. In the first moment it was annoying, and then it was comic: she thought how silly! But as she utterly failed to hold on to anything, as the stones rolled and tumbled beneath her, as she slid down towards the edge, gathering speed, the horror of it slammed into her. She was going to fall. There was nothing to stop her. It was already too late.

The Amber Spyglass, Philip Pullman

slide24

Putting verbs in their place…

A squat grey building of only thirty-four

storeys. Over the main entrance the

words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY

AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and, in a

shield, the World State's motto,

COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

what the dickens
What the Dickens?

LONDON. Michaelmas Term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln’s Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snow-flakes — gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another’s umbrellas in a general infection of ill-temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if the day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest.

slide27

Create a word bank of verbs to describe this picture.

  • Write a short paragraph using your verbs effectively.
phrases
Phrases

I lived alone for a long time in the house at the end of the street.

  • Noun phrase: the house at the end of the street
  • Verb phrase: I lived alone
  • Prepositional phrases: in the house; at the end of the street
  • Adjectival phrase: the house at the end of the street
  • Adverbial phrase: I lived alone for a long time in the house at the end of the street
aaagh beam me up
Aaagh! Beam me up!

Don’t panic!

  • Descriptions of grammar or syntax operate on many levels concurrently.

e.g. A group of words can be a finite subordinate clause and also an adverbial clause at the same time.

e.g. A prepositional phrase can also be an adjectival phrase.

e.g. A subordinating connective (who) can also be a relative pronoun.

  • This is not a cause to despair.
  • You don’t need to know everything!
  • Concentrate on a few specific points to help students’ writing.
  • Agree them with each other – and what to call them.
teaching adverbials
Teaching adverbials
  • Generic term for words/phrases/clauses that add detail of when, where and how something happens:
  • Time ‘I walked in the dusky evening.’
  • Place ‘I walked through the shadowy forest.’
  • Manner ‘I walked on, feeling afraid’
teaching adverbials1
Teaching Adverbials
  • Create atmosphere (melodrama, foreboding, melancholy).
  • Change verbs, add adverbials (words, phrases or clauses).

I walked through the city. The sun shone. Wispy clouds moved across the sky. People crowded the streets. Still, I was alone.

the power of punctuation
The power of punctuation
  • The way a sentence is punctuated communicates the relative importance and relevance of points and can create or solve ambiguities for the reader.
  • How many different ways can you punctuate the following:

A woman without her man is nothing

teaching punctuation
Teaching punctuation

Punctuation is about awareness of grammatical chunksto split up texts into sentences indicating clearly where each major chunk of meaning begins and ends we use capital letters and full stops within the sentence we use a variety of punctuation marks to show breaks between phrases clauses and sometimes words

teaching punctuation1
Teaching punctuation

Punctuation is about awareness of grammaticalchunks. To split up texts into sentences, indicating clearly where each major chunk of meaning begins and ends, we use capital letters and full stops. Within the sentence, we use a variety of punctuation marks to show breaks between phrases, clauses and, sometimes, words.

punctuate for meaning
Punctuate for meaning

Speakers use tone of voice to shape meaning. Writers use punctuation marks. David Crystal

It’s not there.

It’s not there!

It’s not there?

writers choices
Writers’ choices

I listened and at last I heard it a tiny squeaking sound far off like it was coming from another world.

I listened, and at last I heard it: a tiny squeaking sound, far off, like it was coming from another world.

writers choices1
Writers’ choices

Black shapes were emerging out of thin air all around them blocking their way left and right eyes glinted through slits in hoods a dozen lit wand tips were pointing directly at their hearts Ginny gave a gasp of horror

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 35

Black shapes were emerging out of thin air all around them,blocking their way left and right; eyes glinted through slits in hoods,a dozen lit wand tips were pointing directly at their hearts;Ginny gave a gasp of horror.

using commas
Using commas

We use commas:

  • before but in a compound sentence
  • to separate the subordinate clause from the main clause when the subordinate clause comes first
  • after a connective that links across or between sentences
  • to separate items in a list
  • round additional information in a sentence that can be removed without affecting meaning.
writing conversations
Writing conversations

Talking about patterns and features of language helps pupils to become more aware of them and so to use them better as tools for thinking and expression.

rhetorical grammar rules
Rhetorical grammar rules
  • Linked to students’ own reading and writing, not studied separately.
  • Teaching features and patterns of language and how they create meaning or effects.
  • Detailed and explicit discussion about language in context using real examples, not simplistic descriptions such as “adjectives create good description” “short sentences create impact”.
  • Not focused on accuracy.
  • Always support technical terminology with examples.
final recap
Final Recap
  • ‘Grammar,’ as a word, has many shades of meaning.
  • When it comes to attempts to describe language, there are many different ‘grammars’.
  • Language came first: grammar is just an attempt to describe it!
  • You already have expert implicit knowledge about language.
  • When teaching, remember to focus on language in context and on how any features you teach can be used in students’ own writing.
  • Have fun!