Sentence Combining

Combining sentences encourages a writer to take two or more short, choppy sentences and combine them into one effective sentence. By learning this skill, students enhance their writing style. Sentence combining skill is something that will develop over several short practice sessions and should be considered as one component of an overall writing program.

How to use: Individually With small groups Whole class setting

Why use sentence combining?

  • It teaches students to use a variety of sentences in their writing.
  • It helps improve the overall quality of the writing by increasing the amount and quality of the revision
  • The process encourages interesting word choices and transition words.

How to use sentence combining

Teachers should guide students through the sentence combining process. When introducing the skill, begin by asking students to combine two sentences. Move to using three or more sentences once students have more experience. As students develop skill working with sentences provided by the teacher, they can learn to combine sentences within their own writing.

Sadler (2005) provides a possible sequence of sentence-combining exercises. A few of the steps are listed here.

Inserting adjectives and adverbs


The girl drank lemonade.
The girl was thirsty.
The thirsty girl drank lemonade.

Producing compound subjects and objects


The book was good.
The movie was good.
The book and the movie were good.

Producing compound sentences using conjunctions (for example: and, but)


The weather was perfect.
The girls were playing soccer.
The weather was perfect, and the girls were playing soccer.

See "conjunction ... junction" example >

After several modeled and shared lessons, encourage students to combine sentences from their own writing. Take a minute or two at the end of your writer's workshop to ask students to share any sentences they combined. Discuss ways the revision improved the quality of the writing.

Differentiated instruction

For Second Language Learners, students of varying reading skill, and for younger learners

  • Begin sentence combining lessons with oral practice.
  • Begin by asking students to combine two short sentences. As skill increases, ask students to combine three or more.
  • Use sentences from familiar books and stories that the students have read.
  • Provide cued examples of critical information by underlining specific words within the sentences. For example, "The cake was delicious. The cake was chocolate."

See the research that supports this strategy

Some of the research done that involves sentence combining comes from a whole language perspective. We've listed some of that research here. Our instructions for using sentence combining encourage a more explicit approach to using the strategy than what is included in some of the research listed below.

Graham, S. (1997). Executive control in the revising of students with learning and writing difficulties. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89, 223-234.

Saddler, B. (2005). Sentence combining: A sentence-level writing intervention. Reading Teacher, 58, 468-471.

Strong, W. (1986). Creative approaches to sentence combining. Urbana, IL: ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading and Communication Skills & National Council of Teachers of English.

Children's books to use with this strategy

The Red Book

The Red Book

By: Barbara Lehman
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

A girl finds a book with a red cover on a winter day that transports her to a sunny beach. The idea of getting lost in a book (figuratively and magically) is presented wordlessly; only illustrations are used. The story can be told or written any number of ways according to the writer's interpretation of the story.

One Boy

One Boy

By: Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

This concept book uses die-cuts to highlight words within words that are actually short sentences (e.g., turn the page and "one boy" becomes "all alone"). Try to combine sentences to create a series of sentences or build them into one story. (The last illustration pulls the apparently disparate vignettes into one.).

Art and Max

Art and Max

By: David Wiesner
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

The unexpected occurs when two lizards — one an accomplished artist, the other a beginner — begin painting. Fast-paced and often funny, the two voices of the characters are as distinct as their individual creative process. This ingenious book works on several levels.

Say Hello

Say Hello

By: Rachel Isadora
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Mama, Carmelita, and their dog Manny greet people in their diverse neighborhood as they walk to see Abuela Rosa. Everyone says "hello" but in their own language — ranging from Italian and French to Hebrew and Arabic to slang American greetings. It is Manny's "woof," however, that is universal. Textured illustrations make Carmelita’s community familiar and accessible.


Love the information. I plan on using this in my classroom on Monday! I can't wait to stretch my third graders!

i was wondering how we can turn 3 sentences into a compound sentence? is that possible?

These are excellent ideas for sentence combining. I plan to use them with my beginning writers.
Sarah Winchell

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