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Write a Super Sentence Review by Nancy Casari Dayton

Marilyn Evans, Jo Ellen Moore, et al
Evan-Moor Educational Publishers
18 Lower Ragsdale Drive
Monterey, CA 93940-5746

As a homeschool parent, I normally avoid resources that have a classroom feel to them, but products from Evan-Moor are usually exceptions for me. This particular product falls into that category. I am happy to recommend this booklet as a fun way to help students develop sentence-writing skills. It is geared for grades 1-3, but I think you may use older elementary students as well if you tweak it a bit.

Fifteen guided "Super Sentence Starter" lessons are included. For example, the first lesson includes the starter sentence "The pig ate." The student brainstorms for ways to expand/revise the sentence to describe (adjective) "who or what" (noun), "did what" (verb), and tell where and when. There is a graphic organizer with blanks where the additional words and phrases should be written. There is also a list of suggested words.

After brainstorming, the student creates as many oral sentences from these suggestions as is practical and fun. Then the student writes his best sentence in the space provided (four widely-spaced lines). There is an illustration at the top of the page. Later lessons include more lines and smaller illustrations. Finally, you help the student proof and correct his work.

The pages may be reproduced, and you could easily follow this procedure for older kids when working with their own narrations. They could even illustrate them if they would enjoy that. The worst thing that could be said about this approach is that it is formulaic; however, it's a very good place to start. As skills develop and the student is exposed more and more great writing, I think you would see more sophistication in writing skills.

The Writing Center activities focus on specific parts of sentences. For example, the first activity directs the teacher to prepare 5 coffee cans with the labels "who or what," "did what," "where," "when," and "describing words." Then you are to write 5-10 cards for each can, and students are to draw a card from each can and create a sentence from those words and phrases--sort of a hands-on Mad Libs activity. I think kids would find that enjoyable. As with other Evan-Moor products I have reviewed, the preparation for these kinds of activities, geared for classroom, may not be worth the effort in a home-based situation. Then again, you might adapt the activities easily enough, and they may certainly be used in co-op situations very successfully.

An additional resource included in this revised edition is two overhead transparencies. The Level 1 sheet has three columns: describing, who or what?, and did what? The Level 2 sheet has 5 columns, adding where? and when? It would be nice to have included copies of those pages on white paper too, to make copying an option.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that this resource is geared toward trait-based writing and that the skills encompassed in the booklet are correlated to state standards. A website is provided for you to check how the skills align with your particular state. This is helpful for those who must follow state-standards for curriculum and/or testing.

Writing a Super Sentence is 62 pages, plus the two transparencies; the list price is $12.99. Because it demonstrates a sound approach to developing writing skills, is easy for both teachers and students to use, can be used for multiple grade levels, and may be reproduced, it is a good value for the money.

Product review by: Nancy Casari Dayton, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2008