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The Teacher Tip

Experimenting With Sentence Order

January 4, 2018

Adapted from Teaching Nonfiction Revision with Sneed B. Collard III & Vicki Spandel

Encourage students to experiment with logical order in their own writing. First, have them choose a paragraph that runs about four to five sentences. This provides enough length to make order challenging but not overwhelming. Next, ask them to rewrite the paragraph on a clean sheet of paper in line-by-line format:

  • Write the first sentence on one line by itself, like this.
  • Write the second sentence on the following line, and so on.

Have them cut the sentences into strips, and exchange strips with a partner. Students can then play with these sentence strips like a puzzle, trying out different orders until they come up with the one they feel works the best.

The point is not to match the writer’s original. That may or may not happen. Students should strive to arrange the sentences in the most logical order possible. Comparing a partner’s “best” order with the writer’s own text may confirm that the original order made perfect sense. Or—especially if the partner struggles to figure out an order that works—it may raise questions about logical flow or the need for stronger transitions to connect sentences. Tip: Make sure students create a new copy before cutting their writing into strips. I learned the hard way that even though they wrote the text themselves, writers cannot always recall the original order once sentences are scrambled!

To learn more about Teaching Nonfiction Revision and to download a sample chapter, visit

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