Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Slice of Life - Becoming a Sentence Stalker

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Who would have thought I could get so much teaching material from a simple sentence?  This summer, I reread parts of Mechanically Inclined by Jeff Anderson and was zoning in on using mentor sentences as a way to teach grammar and writing mechanics.  As a result, I have become a sentence stalker, searching for sentences to use not only for mechanics but also for craft lessons and response to literature.

Reading the work of Katie Wood Ray also fueled my "sentence stalking."  She talked about creating names for what we see in mentor texts.  As I read The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester, I found that Barbara O'Connor used words and phrases in triplicate throughout the book.  I named this "writing in three's."  I can't wait to share this example with my students.

I also came across Holly Mueller's blog, Reading, Teaching, and Learning where I found a post on collecting sentences.  In her post, she talked about using sentences for responding to literature and gives some great examples of student work.  After reading this, I began collecting sentences as a reader, looking for sentences that meant something to me or inspired me to write.  

As I read the book Jinx by Sage Blackwood.  One sentence that stood out for me was:

"Many things in life are difficult, but to those who persevere, all things are possible."

This made me think about my students, as well as my writing journey.  There are days when writing is difficult for me, whether it be choosing a topic to write about or simply finding the time to write, especially now that school has started.  

I have found that if I keep after it, writing does get easier.  I have been trying to keep a notebook with ideas, snippets, entries and now sentences.  I have learned to use my notebook to write blog posts and to use as examples for my writing lessons. By actually going through the difficult parts, I know it is going to be easier for me to share the writing process, both the ups and the downs, with my students...a lesson in perseverance.    

Becoming a sentence stalker has changed the way I read books, because now I am reading not only as a reader, but also as a writer.  I see things differently as I read.  Something as simple as a sentence can be packed with potential teaching material - once you have become a sentence stalker.  


  1. Love this - I find myself becoming a sentence stalker too. Once you begin you notice perfect sentences everywhere. :)

  2. Ilike the idea of becoming a sentence stalker. I will be thinking more about sentences now that you brought it to my attention! Thanks for sharing your idea!

  3. There is so much teaching potential in great sentences. I too have started a collection of sentences that I love. I find that sentences that engage my senses are the ones I'm drawn to.
    Crossing my fingers that you get another teacher.

  4. Instead of long mentor texts, sentence stalking is so helpful. Sometimes it's the directness that helps students "see" instead of too many words. Great ideas here all the way through. Thanks for saying it so well.

  5. Love the idea of sentence stalking....Jeff's book is chock full of wonderful ideas, isn't it?

  6. Love this idea too - so much can be packed into a short little sentence. Wonder if you could connect this idea to Donalyn Miller's graffiti wall. Capturing those sentences from books that are meaningful and then allowing students to add to it. Thanks for sharing and happy stalking!

  7. Thanks for providing the link to Holly's post on sentence collecting. When I read that post, I was also drawn into the Connections post immediately after which details some wonderful memoir texts. I like the alliteration in sentence stalker. Thanks for reflecting on your writing journey and giving us a glimpse of your writing life!

  8. I completely agree with you about the importance of going through the process ourselves so we'll be better equipped to help our students. Sentence collecting is a great idea! Thanks so much for sharing!

  9. I can envision you stalking those sentences ready to capture one any moment. It seems you had an inspiring summer of PD resulting in a wonderful teaching tool.