Going From Sentences to Paragraphs

Over the weekend, I posted about using Jeff Anderson’s concept of imitating great sentences from favorite authors as a way to improve the complexity and coherence of student writing. After seeing positive results from young writers at school, I wanted to try it myself.  I chose one of my generated sentences that I liked and tried to imitate the pattern and structure of the paragraphs of the mentor text. Below are Eve Bunting's words and then after that are the paragraphs I created using her writing as a model.

Eve Bunting’s words from p. 16 of Fly Away Home:
Once a little brown bird got into the main terminal and it couldn’t get out. It fluttered in the high, hollow spaces. It threw itself at the glass, fell panting on the floor, flew to a tall, metal girder, and perched there, exhausted.
            “Don’t stop trying,” I told it silently. “Don’t! You can get out!”
            For days the bird flew around, dragging one wing. And then it found the instant when a sliding door was open and slipped through. I watched it rise. Its wing seemed OK.
“Fly, bird,” I whispered. “Fly away home!”
            Though I couldn’t hear it, I knew it was singing. Nothing made me as happy as that bird.

My words using Bunting’s sentences as patterns:
Roxy wasn't particularly thrilled to be
cast as the villain in my story.
Once a small brown mouse got into the basement and couldn’t get out. It scurried into a corner, hopping and clawing at the wall. It found the shabby sofa, got a grip on the upholstery, and climbed to the arm, where it perched. Waiting. Nose twitching.
“Don’t stop running,” I told it silently. “Don’t! You can outsmart Roxy the cat!”
For days the mouse scuttled around, successfully hiding from Roxy. And then, thwack went the trap! I feared the worst. In an instant I saw a flash of brown run under the sofa. The mouse was okay.
“Run mouse,” I whispered. “You are indeed brave.”
Though I couldn’t see it, I knew it was hiding, twitching, waiting to respond to the next hazard.

The next step is to take the paragraphs and use them to produce more writing, possibly a story. I’m going to let the words take me wherever they want to go. And if my internal editor gets too loud and begins to prevent me from getting my words on the paper, I will shush it because it is time to write.


  1. I have used this idea before with junior high students, but have left it out of my teaching lately. I think it's time to bring it back! Love your rendition--and your cat looks remarkably like our Winnie.

  2. I missed your last post. Great idea. Did it work well with the students? I like your writing, especially the paragraph that begins "For days the mouse scuttled around, successfully hiding from Roxy." I hope we'll get to see what's next when you expand the paragraphs.

  3. Another good one! I have to go try it.

  4. You totally caught the rhythm of Bunting's writing in yours. Love it! However, I do feel bad for Roxy getting the rap as the villain, did you read this to her? Her expression definitely says she's put out with you.:)

  5. ooh, thanks for sharing how that worked with your own writing! I really like the way you patterned after the mentor text by interspersing what you told the animal and your description of it. Sounds like a great technique to try with kids!

  6. @Elsie - you always seem like you can read my mind. Roxy did look kind of ticked off in the photo, didn't she? :)

  7. "I’m going to let the words take me wherever they want to go. And if my internal editor gets too loud and begins to prevent me from getting my words on the paper, I will shush it because it is time to write."

    SHUSH!!!! GO, go go...

  8. Love your mentor sentence - and I adore Jeff Anderson. Thanks for sharing!

  9. I started formally using Jeff Anderson's Everyday Editing this school year. I love where you took it. Eve Bunting is a gem!

  10. Love this idea and love what you created! So good! And I love the picture of Roxy . . . not too sure what she thinks of all this. I mean, c'mon, it's her duty to catch that little mouse!

  11. It's wonderful that you practiced what you preached - trying it out for yourself, and flexing those writing muscles. You captured Bunting's dynamics, but in your own way -which is the point of the exercise, right, to find ways to improve our writing?

  12. Love these words --
    "I will shush it because it is time to write."

  13. I am not very good at explicitly using mentor texts. Thanks for the inspirational push.

  14. Funny - I probably do this orally when I'm telling stories to my students - telling them in the style of a favorite author. I never thought about practicing it in writing. I should go back to school. Can I be in your class?

  15. You are reminding me to go back to those favorite authors of mine. I will give that a try. Thanks. I'm glad you found humor in my hope for chocolate--just buzzes in my mind.


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