Overcoming the first sentence syndrome

accessed from https://download.unsplash.com/1/irish-hands.jpg 210715 under creative commons license

Writing can be hard work, especially getting started. Finding  the words to write the first sentence can pose a challenge and potentially block the flow of ideas and actions to complete the writing task.

Start a sentence v2The first sentence provides the expectation of what’s next, or indicates what the text is about. The audience (reader) refers to the style, complexity, grammar, punctuation, and vocabulary as clues to gain meaning. Learners can stumble at this important writing stage.

How can we assist learners to overcome the first sentence syndrome?

If your learners need to write –reports, procedures, policies, business letters, abstracts, conclusions, introductions, summaries, emails, personal journals, opinion pieces, WHS reports, narrative pieces, blog posts, learning reflections …………and they are challenged to get started, then providing focused and direct scaffolding can enable learners to progress independently.

It’s easy to assume that scaffolding writing skill is usually necessary for learners with limited foundation skills capacity and higher level learners don’t need this type of support. When faced with writing an unfamiliar text type, learners may feel like a Novice, or Advanced Beginner (CSfW) uncertain about how to get started. Regardless of the text type and complexity, learners appreciate knowing how to approach writing for the intended purpose.

If you are introducing new writing genres or text types, reveal:

  • the text purpose and audience: what message is intended, and who will be reading this?
  • the text type: what is the expected vocabulary, language and text format?

Encourage learners to:

  • spend time planning (key points, heading sub-headings): gathering ideas or specific information, and locating resources
  • edit and rearrange their writing: know it is normal to redraft, many writers visit and revisit
7 Sentence Writing Strategies

The following strategies:

  1. can be used within different text types and complexity.
  2. adapt to different delivery models and web-based tools.
  3. support foundation skill development across ACSF and CSfW levels.
  4. are accessed from different sources:
  • Teaching Adults to Write to Communicate: located on this site in the Resource Links Teaching Strategies  (page 2)
  • QCAL Tutor Tips:  located on this site in the Resource Links Teaching Strategies  (Page 1)
  • Gelman, H. Everyone can write: A Guide to get you started  (book details see below)
Strategy
Source

Running Dictionary. A skill building activity featuring relevant grammar , punctuation or vocabulary features.

For a detailed description, access QCAL Tutor Tip Running Writing

Sentence Soapbox. Learners individually write a sentence for a specific purpose. Sentences are redistributed anonymously, read, shared and edited by peers.  

 For a detailed description, access QCAL Tutor Tips Sentence Soapbox

A shared (or guided) approach to writing. This enables the trainer to discuss and model writing strategies as the learners try independently.

 For a detailed description, access Teaching Adults to Write to Communicate, page 28.

Provide a writing frame.  For example ask questions, or provide a short description of what should be included within the sentence.

. For a detailed description, access Teaching Adults to Write to Communicate, page 31

Provide example sentence starters for different text types.

Gelman, H. (2014) Everyone can write: A guide to get you started Exisle Publishing PTY Ltd

Build Word Maps. Explore learners’ known relevant vocabulary, introduce new vocabulary, demonstrate linkages, antonyms, synonyms.

  For a detailed description, access Teaching Adults to Write to Communicate, page 36.

Encourage learners to collect samples of opening sentences for particular text types or text sections. These can be shared, building a group collection or resource.

Gelman, H. (2014) Everyone can write: A guide to get you started. Exisle Publishing Pty Ltd

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s