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Sentence Combining #8: How Teachers Make Children Hate Reading

Combining Sentences and Building Cause & Effect Paragraphs

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This sentence-combining exercise has been adapted from two paragraphs in The Underachieving School, by John Holt (Pitman, 1969). An advocate of homeschooling, Holt argued that traditional schools are "bad places for children"--"the most authoritarian and dangerous of all the social inventions of mankind."

Reconstruct Holt's cause-and-effect paragraphs by combining the sentences in each of the 14 sets that follow. The first paragraph (sets 1-9) focuses on causes--why and how many children are conditioned to "hate reading." The second paragraph (sets 10-14) considers the effects of such conditioning. Note that several of Holt's original sentences contain adverb clauses.

As with any sentence-combining exercise, feel free at any point to combine sets (to create a longer sentence) or to make two or more sentences out of one set (to create shorter sentences). You may rearrange the sentences in any fashion that strikes you as appropriate and effective.

If you run into any problems, you may find it helpful to review our Introduction to Sentence Combining. After completing the exercise, compare your paragraphs with Holt's originals on the next page, but keep in mind that many effective combinations are possible.

How Teachers Make Children Hate Reading

adapted from The Underachieving School, by John Holt

  1. We make books and reading a constant source of failure.
    They are a constant source of public humiliation.
    We do this from the very beginning of school.


  2. We make little children read aloud.
    They read before the teacher.
    They read before other children.
    They read so that we can be sure of something.
    They must "know" all the words they are reading.


  3. Here is what this means.
    They may not know a word.
    Then they are going to make a mistake.
    They make it right before everyone.


  4. They have done something wrong.
    They are made to realize this instantly.


  5. Perhaps some of the other children will begin to wave their hands.
    The children will say, "Ooooh! O-o-o-oh!"


  6. Perhaps they will just giggle.
    Perhaps they will nudge each other.
    Perhaps they will make a face.


  7. "Are you sure"?
    Perhaps the teacher will say that.
    Perhaps the teacher will ask someone else what he thinks.


  8. Perhaps the teacher is kindly.
    She will smile.
    The smile is sweet.
    The smile is sad.
    This is often one of the most painful punishments.
    A child suffers these punishments in school.


  9. In any case, the child has made the mistake.
    He knows he has made it.
    The child feels foolish.
    The child feels stupid.
    The child feels ashamed.


  10. Children associate books with mistakes.
    Children associate reading with mistakes.
    Children do this before very long.
    The mistakes may be real.
    The mistakes may be feared.
    They associate books and reading with penalties.
    They associate books and reading with humiliation.


  11. This may not be sensible.
    It is natural.


  12. A cat sat on a hot stove.
    It would never sit on a hot one again after this.
    It would never sit on a cold one either.
    Mark Twain once said that.


  13. As true of children as of cats.


  14. Leave all books alone.
    That is the safest thing to do.
    Children are likely to decide that.
    They will decide that if they, so to speak, sit on a hot book a few times.
    They will decide that if books cause them humiliation.
    They will decide that if books cause them pain.

After completing the exercise, compare your two paragraphs with John Holt's originals on the next page.

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