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Lesson Plan

Breaking the Rules with Sentence Fragments

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Breaking the Rules with Sentence Fragments

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Susan Spangler

Susan Spangler

Fredonia, New York


National Council of Teachers of English



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



Teachers generally warn student writers to avoid sentence fragments, but professional writers use sentence fragments effectively for a variety of reasons.  Using Edgar Schuster’s study of sentence fragments from The Best American Essays, this lesson encourages students to examine fragments in action, determine their effective rhetorical uses, and reflect on their own uses of sentence fragments.

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In a 2006 article in English Journal, Edgar Schuster uses essays from The Best American Essays to demonstrate that professional writers used sentence fragments at the rate of .93 per page on average.  This statistic flies in the face of English teachers who admonish their students to “avoid sentence fragments.”   By closely examining the contexts in which professional writers use fragments, Schuster is able to formulate several rules for effective fragment use and encourages student writers to do so as well.

Further Reading

Schuster, Edgar. “A Fresh Look at Sentence Fragments.”  English Journal 95.5 (2006):  78-83.

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