The English Teacher

Teaching Style in Writing

UNIT: BULWER-LYTTON SENTENCES 4+ genres [Focus: beginnings of sense of style]
The idea for this lesson came to me when I read an article about the contest that San Jose State College had for the worst possible opening sentence for a novel. I patterned a unit after that contest. They may no longer hold the contest, although I did read several articles after this one. However, you can have your own contest. Students learn a lot about style from each other and you might even add an example or two of your own.

Have students write the "worst possible opening sentence for a novel." Begin with a general genre such as adventure. Then go to romance, science fiction, western, etc. I have the class sit in a circle and read their sentences right after they write them. Then there is a lot of spontaneity and energy. The students love this unit and you may be surprised at the sophistication of their stylistically 'bad' sentences.

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