Using ISPACED to vary sentence structure in writing

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I’m always struggling to find ways to encourage my students to vary their sentences. They  tend to  ‘go with what comes naturally’ and stubbornly stick to the same general structure,especially when it comes to sentence openings.

This is troubling as good writing has to be diverse  and quite a sizeable portion of marks is allocated to sentence structure in formal assessments.

ISPACED is a wonderful way to open up sentence starting possibilities. The Acronym functions as a reminder that sentences can begin in many ways and works as follows:

Ing words

Backing away slowly, the man lowered his weapon


As quiet as a mouse, he creeped away.


Under the bridge, there were 3 trolls.


Cautiously, Kevin approached the gorilla.


Because I wanted an ice cream, I decided to go to the beach

ED words

Terrified, Jessica ran away from the lumbering monster.

When I first introduce ISPACED to my classes, I like playing a game. It works like this:

  1. Each student gets an A4 sheet of paper on which they write a simple opening sentence. They then have to pass their paper to the left/right
  2. The next person carries on the story, using an ‘Ing’ word. Allow for an approproate time limit and when the time is up, they pass the paper on again.
  3. The next person carries the story on using a Simile. And so on…

Eventually, we have a collection of collaboratively written stories that show that you can find many different ways to say the same thing. Students really enjoy racing the clock to come up with a sentence and it’s a fun way to explore this concept.

Here is a link to a great ISPACE Power Point on TES:

Try it out as a starter for your next Big Write and let me know how it goes in the comments!

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