The Sniper: Writing for Pacing

The Sniper, by Liam O’Flaherty, is a great short story to teach the basic elements of a story, including setting, climax, resolution, and plot twist.  I also find it an excellent story to introduce students to the idea of pacing.  The writing objective for this story and lesson is to use mentor sentences to write compound or complex sentences for description, and to use shorter, declarative sentences for action sequence.

We read the story together out loud either as a whole group, or in smaller groups.  I encourage students to use punctuation to guide them on how to read the story for fluency.  The reading handout and PowerPoint has essential vocabulary for comprehension, pre-reading discussion questions to build background and historical context, and post-reading comprehension questions.

Students then use mentor sentences to construct their own sentences of varied lengths.  Then they move on to a flash fiction activity where they need to be mindful of the intention behind each sentence, and choose  the length accordingly.  The flash fiction activity can be as short or as workshopped as time allows, as either a quick paragraph exit ticket, or a longer extension activity.

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