Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Doodling for Complex Sentences

Are your students struggling with making sentences more complex?

Many students can write simple sentences, and run-on sentences, but they struggle with writing solid complex sentences.

This written activity is a fun way to get students to sculpt more complex sentences using relative clauses and transition words.

Before ANY of this, my students have learned different transition words, how to use them where to use them relative pronouns, etc.

I usually start by drawing a few random doodles on the board. describe what a doodle is. If students guess scribble, I also accept this word as appropriate.Then, I ask what they see in the doodles. Once they see how doodles can be changed into different forms, we are ready to start!

Activity: This can be arranged in many ways, but I like to have students sit in circles.
Step One Doodle on different pieces of paper and 
STEP ONE Each student gets a paper with a doodle drawn (Note: To make this a no prep activity, students may make the first doodle, but I find giving them a doodle tends to work out better.)

STEP TWO Each student expands on the picture. I know the picture below vague, but notice how the student turned the doodle into a rabbit!

STEP THREE (optional) Have the students write one or two words describing their picture. Again looking at the picture to the below, the student could write something like, "An animal," or, "A rabbit,"

Have a box of transition words and relative prnounouns
STEP FOUR The students pass the paper to another student. The student will form a sentence describing the picture: "The rabbit is tall"

STEP FIVE Pass the paper again. This time students also take (or are given) a piece of paper with a random connecting word.  They are told to find a way to make the sentence longer using that word, "The rabbit is tall; however, he is fat."

STEP FIVE  There are multiple ways to do this. I like having students pass the doodling paper to the right, and their connecting word to the left. The students then needed to add another word to the sentence, "The rabbit, who is furry, is tall; however, he is fat."

STEP SIX At this point you can continue having the students pass connecting words to the left and doodles to the right, or you can give out new connecting words.

STEP SEVEN Continue step six until students become bored you you have had them make at least four rotations.

STEP EIGHT Finally, the last time students don't add to the sentence. Their job is to read through the sentence, which at this point can be quite complex, and make it coherent.

STEP NINE Students present the final pictures to the class as well as the final description of the picture.

 Why it Works 
Students could get bored by this, but because the pictures are so random almost every time it goes like this:
Teacher: OK pass the paper to the next student please.
Student 1: What is that?
Student 2: What did you draw?
Student 3: Oh my god this sentence is ridiculous.

They are ALWAYS entertained!

This is also a great activity to use with adjectives or any other clauses. Basically, anything where students add onto a basic sentence. If you want students to practice speaking you can have them do this in partners.

This activity isn't directly humorous, but I PROMISE you that your students will laugh at some of the doodles created and sentences written.  On August 2nd the deadline for submitting your blog to be part of the ELT Blog Carnival on Humor will CLOSE! Don't miss out!


  1. Great activity! Thank you for sharing!

  2. This post is also part of the August ELT Blog Carnival on humor:


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