Stolen Sentences

This is a really simple idea for helping students develop more interesting and complex sentences.

Make a pile of strips of paper and coloured markers readily available. As you read stories aloud, encourage students to note sentences that ‘speak to them’. When a sentence resonates with a student he/she asks the teacher to stop, takes a strip of paper and a marker and writes down the sentence. This sentence is then attached to a noticeboard. During writing activities, students are encouraged to use these sentences, parts of the sentences or a modification of the sentences in their own writing.

You may find initially that you are the only person selecting sentences until students understand the purpose of the activity. Each time you select a sentence that ‘speaks to you’, explain why you have selected the sentence.

It is also important that you demonstrate how these ‘stolen sentences’ can act as a ‘trigger’ to make your own writing more interesting. For example, the stolen sentence might be: The sky was getting heavy. The meaning of this sentence would have been explored when originally chosen. In the writing activity, you could brainstorm other events or things that could be explained using the word heavy in the context of it becoming darker or more violent (e.g., The sea was getting heavy). Alternatively, you could brainstorm other analogies for an approaching storm (e.g., The sky’s tantrum built in intensity or tears fell from the sky).


Jozwiak, D. ( 2019). Stealing Sentences to Improve Student Writing. The Reading Teacher, 73( 3), 375– 376.

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