Sentence Checkup: Mathematical Play with Sentence Patterns and Length

We know young writers will do what feels comfortable. They don’t play with their writing. They don’t try a sentence three different ways when it’s not working. They don’t explore what a varied sentence pattern or length can do for their writing’s rhythm and fluency. (Anderson, 178 pag.)

Blending a little math into writer’s workshop, what if we analyze and visualize our sentence patterns and lengths? Will learners play with their sentences after collecting and graphing a little data as described in 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know?

Knowing how important visuals are to my learning, I used Google Sheets to “see” the variation in sentence length and to analyze the pattern of my sentence beginning.

Sentence checkup 1: Advance Your Inner Mathematician #TrinityLearns Session 5: Sequence and Connect

Wow! I am not worried about my sentence length. (Are they long? Is there an average number of words in great sentences, or is it about variety and rhythm?) However, I am appalled at the lack of interesting first words. It would have been so easy to write:

“Advance Your Inner Mathematician is a new course we are piloting this semester.”

And, the second sentence could have easily been,

“Anchored in Smith and Sherin’s ‘The 5 Practices in Practice: Successfully Orchestrating Mathematics Discussion in Your Middle School Classroom’, this course supports continued teacher learning after Embolden Your Inner Mathematician.”

Or the two sentences could have been combined into one sentence.

“Advance Your Inner Mathematician, a new course we are piloting this semester is anchored in Smith and Sherin’s ‘The 5 Practices in Practice: Successfully Orchestrating Mathematics Discussion in Your Middle School Classroom’, to support continued teacher learning after Embolden Your Inner Mathematician.”

Sentence Checkup 2: Fear of Imperfection; Deep Practice; Just Make A Mark 

I notice that this post is chock-full of questions (16 of 18 sentences) – a known trait of my writing.  I find the visual of sentence length interesting.

While I chose Google sheets as my tool, students can quickly graph this data by hand (please encourage the use of graph paper so that they attend to precision), and drop it in their writer’s notebook.

Will writers play more with their words and sentences if they see the patterns and frequency?


Anderson, Jeff. 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know. Stenhouse Publishers, 2011.

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