Lesson plan

Rein in the Run-Ons

Are your students having trouble taming run-on sentences into a more manageable length? In this lesson, your students will learn to not only recognize a run-on sentence, but also how to stop it in its tracks.
Grade Subject View aligned standards

Students will be able to write complete sentences, including editing run-on sentences for clarity and grammar.

(10 minutes)
  • Write the following sentence on the board: “Lily loves cats and she loves petting them because they have soft silky fur and she also really loves cats because they are cute and cuddly and sometimes they even sit and sleep on her lap and Lily hopes that someday she will be able to have a pet cat of her very own.”
  • Ask the students what they notice about this sentence. Expected responses include that it is long, it has a lot of information, and that it’s hard to understand or stay focused about what the author is trying to say.
  • Explain that this sentence is what we call a run-on sentence. The sentence has many complete thoughts joined together to make one giant sentence. There are many independent sentences within the run-on sentence. Writers need to avoid run-on sentences for the reasons just stated. Ask students if they can think of a reason it might be called a run-on sentence.
  • Tell students that today they will learn to identify a run-on sentence and learn what to do to make sure their writing does not have run-on sentences.
(15 minutes)
  • Tell students that to have a sentence we need only two things: a subject and a verb. For example, “He runs.” is a complete sentence, as it contains both a subject and a verb. Give several other examples to your class.
  • Reference the run-on sentence from the introduction. Explain how this sentence has many subjects and verbs. When there are too many of either, the sentence becomes confusing for the reader.
  • Explain that to fix a run-on sentence we need to find subjects and verbs that we can group together to make a complete sentence. We can also pay attention to where our voice naturally pauses when reading the run-on sentence to determine where punctuation is needed. We can also see where conjunctions were used to glue what should have been many sentences into one big sentence. You may need to review the term conjunction with your class.
  • Model going through and marking off where your voice pauses. Then reread the sentence and identify the conjunctions by circling them. Tell students that this tells us where the writer tried to join two ideas together. Tell students that at this point it is starting to become clear where the sentence can be broken apart. Next, tell students that you need to check and make sure that each new part has one subject and verb. Finally, model fixing the sentence so that it has capital letters and punctuation at the beginning of each new shorter sentence.
  • Model rereading the sentences made from the original run-on sentence. It should read, “Lily loves cats. She loves petting them because they have soft silky fur. She also really loves cats because they are cute and cuddly. Sometimes they even sit and sleep on her lap. Lily hopes that someday she will be able to have a pet cat of her very own.” Discuss with students why this is clearer for the reader to understand.
(15 minutes)
  • Repeat the steps in the model for taking apart a second run-on sentence of your choosing. Scaffold students in identifying pauses, subjects and verbs, and conjunctions.
  • For added fun, have students make the stop signal with their hands when they think they have heard the end of a sentence within the run-on sentence. Alternatively, students could do other signals.
  • Make sure to have the students correct capitalization and punctuation.
(10 minutes)
  • Have students practice their new found skills by completing the Run-On Sentences worksheet.
  • Enrichment: Have students in need of a challenge edit more complex sentences.
  • Support: For struggling students, prepare some shorter run-on sentences on paper. Have the student physically cut the parts of a run-on sentence into more manageable parts so that they can physically see the change. Have these students work on correcting capitalization and punctuation for each piece of cut paper.
(10 minutes)
  • As students work, make sure to circulate and check for understanding. Check to see that students are using the strategies from the model. Collect the run-on worksheet and analyze to further check for understanding. Make sure to monitor students' writing after this lesson to see that they are applying the strategies.
(5 minutes)
  • Review with students what is necessary to form a complete sentence.
  • Review the strategies they will use to correct their own run-on sentences in their own writing.
  • Have students describe how they will apply these strategies going forward.

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