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Teaching Activity: Sentence Combining through Reflection – Participial Phrases

The following classroom exercise was designed by Adam Yerima (GTA):

I have noticed that many students (no matter their linguistic background) have difficulty in connecting multiple ideas into a more refined sentence. In order to address this, I feel that an activity based on reducing extra sentences into phrases would be useful – assuming that the class is 85 min in length…


My class activity would start with a lecture on participial phrases (approx. 15 min) – followed by a screening of The Twilight Zone’s “Time Enough at Least” (20 min runtime). I would show this episode in order to provide a common ground that the students can work off of.

Individual summaries

After the screening, I would have students spend 10 minutes writing their own 1-2 page summaries of the episode’s events.

Sentence activity

I would then write out the following five examples on the whiteboard – asking students how they would combine the sentences, and have them write answers on the whiteboard (approx. 20 min):

Example #1

Henry Bemis was blind without his glasses. He began to fall into despair.

Possible revision:
Henry Bemis, blind without his glasses, began to fall into despair.

Example #2
Mrs. Bemis was displeased with her husband. She decided to shred Walt Whitman poetry.

Possible revision:
Displeased with her husband, Mrs. Bemis shredded Walt Whitman poetry.


Example #3
The book was hidden under Henry’s desk. It was safe from Mrs. Bemis.

Possible revision:
Hidden under Henry’s desk, the book was safe from Mrs. Bemis.


Example #4
Henry Bemis read carefully in the bank. He was ignoring his customer.

Possible revision:
Reading carefully in the bank, Henry Bemis ignored his customer.

Example #5
The bank manager yelled at Henry. He saw Henry reading David Copperfield.

Possible revision:
The bank manager, seeing Henry read David Copperfield, yelled at him.

Individual revisions

I would then give the students 15min (asking them to keep the discussed reductions in mind) to reread/revise their summaries.

Next class

I would spend the beginning of our next class session having students present both their original and revised sentences. The students would provide their reasoning for the revisions, and we would review/comment on the work as a group (approx. 30min).



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