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Sentence / Paragraph Writing

Diana's ELL Writing Practice

This FREE website was created by Diana Mulcahy, a writing teacher from Minneapolis Adult Education. It was launched in January of 2018, is regularly updated, and will be expanded in the future. The Google site format is simple and clean, easy for students to navigate, and there are no distracting pop-ups. Diana uses this website as a companion to her classroom writing instruction for Low Intermediate ELLs. It provides a back-up for students who miss writing class(es) or a follow-up for those who want extra review or practice. It is accessible from a computer or smart phone.

Currently, there are three sections: Parts of Speech, Verb Tenses, and Sentences. Each section has multiple lessons; all include a voiced-over video (based on class handouts) and quiz (multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank) with immediate feedback.

For more independent use, Diana suggests these steps:

  1. Show a student or group of students how to find and navigate the website
  2. Model how to complete the first lesson on nouns (watch video, then do quiz) 
  3. Encourage completion of other lessons in Section 1-3 order
  4. Once a week, give a writing prompt for application of lesson concepts to composition
  5. Provide feedback and note correct/incorrect use of taught/learned concepts

In Their Own Words: Reading and Understanding through Paraphrasing

Metro Spring 2015 Regional - Vicki Estrem & Pam Ampferer

Effective paraphrasing builds students' reading and writing skills and boosts comprehension of complex texts. This valuable strategy can be used across all content areas with students of various reading levels. Summarized here are materials and techniques for teaching paraphrasing in various ABE contexts, including addressing paraphrasing for the GED 2014 Extended Response. (This session was geared toward teachers of intermediate to advanced readers and to both native and non-native speakers of English.)

Download PowerPoint
Download Handout

Khan Academy - Sentence Writing

Khan Academy or KA is a FREE online learning platform used by students from around the world. Recently, Grammar was added as a topic under Arts & humanities. KA’s grammarians, David and Paige, present engaging and entertaining video tutorials and practice exercises on sentence writing (under Syntax: sentences and clauses): sentences, clauses, and conventions. The lessons tend to use higher-level vocabulary words or examples; thus, they may be most appropriate for Adult Secondary students…and possibly appropriate for High Intermediate ABE and Advanced ESL.

Note: Because it’s so new, Distance Learning teachers in Minnesota cannot yet recommend it; however, their students’ grammar time will be counted and reported.

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Tiered Sentence Combining

According to adult literacy research and practitioner observation, many ABE students tend to overuse short, simple sentences in their writing. Explicit sentence combining instruction can help them write sentences that are longer, more complex or interesting, and varied in structure. Tiered Sentence Combining (TSC), an evidence-based resource developed by MN STARs, provides a starting point that may ultimately improve ABE students' sentence composition, complexity, and comprehension. In addition to Teacher Background and Teacher Information pages, TSC:

  • Presents 6 scaffolded strategies for combining short sentences with the common connectors and, but, or, so.
    Recommends an explicit and integrated instructional process of READ-WRITE-READ.
  • Offers 16 Student Exercises using Tier One (concrete, everyday, basic) words and 32 exercises using Tier 2 (abstract, sophisticated, academic) words.
  • Provides an Answer Key for each set of Student Exercises.
  • Includes a variety of Minnesota practitioner sentence topics and ideas for use in ABE, ESL, or GED classrooms.
  • Aligns with College and Career Readiness Standards, Language CCR Anchor 1: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

The most recent version of TSC (August 2014) is posted here as a Word file; teachers are highly encouraged to make any changes in formatting or wording that will benefit students' sentence combining readiness or success. They are also respectfully requested to contact Marn Frank with any corrections or comments.


Write More, Write Now

Stephanie Sommers, Minneapolis Adult Education teacher, attended COABE in Orlando, Florida in the spring of 2017. One of the sessions she attended was called Write More, Write Now, facilitated by Amber Miller, Austin Community College. What she liked best about the session was the differentiation between revising and editing of sentences, paragraphs, and essays. Upon her return, Stephanie summarized a number of strategies in a MN ABE Connect newsletter article. The link below will bring you directly to her article.

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