Honors Program


Date of this Version


Document Type



Gervais, S. (2019). Effective writing education: The power and value of sentence-combining instruction for English language learners. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Copyright Sarah Gervais 2019.


Data indicate that English language learners (ELLs) consistently score lower than their peers on measures of writing (National Center for Education Statistics, 2017). This supports the fundamental need for individualized writing instruction for ELLs (Beck, Llosa & Fredrick, 2013). Graham and Perin (2007) indicate that explicit instruction in sentence-combining is an effective method for improving overall writing outcomes for struggling writers. However, the effectiveness of sentence-combing has not been adequately determined for Spanish-speaking ELLs. Therefore, the purpose of the current study was to evaluate the effects of a sentence-combining intervention that focused on adjective use for Spanish-speaking ELLs. Eleven qualifying students were recruited for the study, seven of which demonstrated at-risk writing performance. Three of the seven students received sentence-combining instruction individually while the others received instruction in dyads composed of one high-performing and one low-performing student. Results support sentence combining as an effective method of improving writing skills as there was a clear and immediate change in scores following the instructional phase of intervention, regardless of instructional conditions. However, results cannot be generalized to passage writing as indicated by the passage-writing probe administered and its corresponding data. Overall, findings of the current study suggest that explicit instruction in sentence-combining is both an effective and efficient practice to implement to improve both sentence-writing skills as well as reinforce correct adjective use for Spanish-speaking ELLs.