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Looking At Punctuation

Life Skills:

  • Thinking & Reasoning
  • Communication
  • Social & Civic Responsibility
  • Employability

Curriculum Tie:

Group Size:
Large Groups


This lesson will provide some ideas on how we can teach punctuation more effectively, see how punctuation study relates to the development of fluency, and develop an understanding of how punctuation study can develop greater comprehension for both the reader and the writer.

Main Curriculum Tie:
English Language Arts Grade 5Language Standard 2
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

Find books that you love to demonstrate punctuation to your students.

  • The Goodnight Circle, by Carolyn Lesser
  • I'm In Charge of Celebrations, by Byrd Baylor
    dashes, parentheses, colons
  • Thunder Cake and Mrs. Katz and Tush, by Patricia Polacco
    ellipses, dashes
  • Scarecrow, by Cynthia Rylant
    apostrophes, colons, commas in lists, ellipses
  • Aunt Flossies' Hats, by Elizabeth Fitzgerald
    dashes, quotation marks within quotation marks
  • Come On, Rain!, by Karen Hesse
  • My Mama had a Dancing Heart, by Libba Gray
  • Snow, by Uri Shulevitz
  • Winter Room, by Gary Paulsen
    chapter book

Background For Teachers:
When we teach students punctuation we teach them a way to transact with their audience. Dots and symbols provide a way for the writer's voice to be heard through their writing. Punctuation cannot save a poor writer, but can bring clarity and personality to good writing.

Punctuation lessons need to be on-going. Mini-lessons will serve you well if you pick out a particular punctuation to remind the students of and teach and then review on a regular basis.

Use the same book year after year!

In the U.S. teachers tread on sacred ground when they or they have their students read a book that another teacher uses.

In other countries they use books multiple times over numerous grades.

Educators in other countries see books as teaching tools that can be used in multiple ways to develop numerous skills and strategies over time.

Teach only one point per mini lesson or conference.

Show students what needs to be done, using literature or writing - MODEL!

Do not make changes for the students.

Teach the writer, not the writing. Teach something that students can apply to writing from that day forth. Do not teach something that only applies to one student's piece of writing.

Keep notes on what you teach in both the mini lessons and in individual conferences to use as follow-up for implementation on the part of the student.

Hold students accountable for what you taught.

Things to Think About:

  1. Have we had too much writer's workshop without really teaching the conventions of writing?
  2. The conventions of print need explicit instruction and authentic practice.
  3. Providing appropriate dictation, and then looking at it, tells you a great deal about your students.
  4. Students sometimes need to hear recordings to hear the punctuation.
  5. Errors are opportunities for students to learn.
  6. "It is dishonest to invite children to take a risk and then penalize them for doing so."
  7. We need to analyze the reasons behind the mistakes.
  8. When we "bleed" on a student's paper, are we using the learning opportunity?

Intended Learning Outcomes:
Through regular attention to punctuation in the writing of your students, they will improve their ability to punctuate correctly in their daily writing.

Instructional Procedures:
Part One:

  • Begin with reading aloud and pointing out punctuation.
  • Have pairs of students explore punctuation together with a book.
  • Ask students to talk about what they notice as they read their group book.
  • Listen and make notes about what students say to each other. Gather information about what students know to guide their instruction.
  • Ask students to think about why the author used certain punctuation and what the writer might be asking the reader to do.
  • Chart student observations.
  • Ask students to notice punctuation in their independent reading.
Part Two:
  • Students need to read aloud to hear punctuation. This procedure builds fluency.
  • Audiotapes help students hear the difference in their reading using punctuation.
  • Students are surprised how much their reading improves when they engage in repeated reading.
  • Use partner reading as a repeated reading tool.
  • Use short pieces of dictation consisting of several sentences with words kids can spell. The teacher uses his or her voice to clue students to the punctuation for students to record.
Center/Seat Activities:
  • Students find examples of text containing interesting punctuation use and write it on a chart for others to see.
  • Students punctuate morning announcements that could be recorded each day.
  • Students find and write a sentence/paragraph as it is written and then rewrite it with different punctuation.
  • Students place their writing for punctuation comments in a box. Other students take sticky notes and add punctuation to students' work.
  • Students do an individual study of how one author uses punctuation.
  • Students compare one author's use of punctuation with another's.
  • Students reflect on how their use of punctuation has changed over time.
  • They do a deeper study on one punctuation mark.
  • They look at genres and the use of punctuation not already studied.
  • They study punctuation in political cartoons and comic strips.
  • They look at how punctuation is used in e-mails (use samples).
Part Three:
  • Move from author study on punctuation to student application in their own writing.
  • Points for Students to Remember
  • Think about how you want your writing to sound.
  • Think about how punctuation can help you accomplish that.
  • Who is the author you are following?
  • Be able to show your teacher a book in which the author used the punctuation style you wish to use.
  • Conference with at least two other classmates on your punctuation.
  • What other ways might you punctuate your sentence, paragraph, or whole paper?
  • Is your punctuation appropriate for your genre and audience?
Practicing to Write Quotes
  • What did they say about Rick Majerus?
    1. Dick Hunsaker (write one sentence using quotes)
    2. Mike Krzyrewski (write one sentence using quotes)
The Power of Vygotsky!
  • Vygotsky maintained that every student has a zone of proximal development (ZPD).
  • Students can do with help what they cannot do alone. (Assisted by more capable others: With the help of teachers, peers, or environment, students can move from assistance, to assistance provided by self, to internalization and being automatic.
  • So.... We provide instruction and modeling.
  • We provide ample practice with the teacher.
  • We provide sufficient practice with small groups.
  • We provide additional practice with a partner.
  • We release for individual practice and performance.
  • If not mastered, we pull back and teach and model again.
Is Punctuation All That Important?

Example 1:

Dear John:
I want a man who know what love is. All about are generous, kind, thoughtful people who are like you. Admit to being useless and inferior? You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. Have no feelings whatsoever when we're apart. Can be forever happy-will you let me be yours?


Example 2:

Dear John:
I want a man who knows what love is. All about are generous, kind, thoughtful people. Who are like you? Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you have no feelings whatsoever. When we're apart can be forever happy. Will you let me be?


Strategies For Diverse Learners:


Students could take an editorial from the newspaper and edit it for correct punctuation. They may change the punctuation and see if the message is different from the original. Refer to Center/Seat ideas.

Assessment Plan:
Points for Students to Remember:

  1. Think about how you want your writing to sound.
  2. Think about how punctuation can help you accomplish that.
  3. Who is the author you are following?
  4. Be able to show your teacher a book in which the author used the punctuation style you wish to use.
  5. Conference with at least two other classmates on your punctuation.
  6. What other ways might you punctuate your sentence, paragraph, or whole paper.
  7. Is your punctuation appropriate for your genre and audience?



  • Punctuation Takes a Vacation, by Robin Pulver. ISBN 0823416879
    With these mini-lessons and partner and small group activities students can catch on to the power of punctuation while looking at how favorite authors use it and by noticing in advertising, newspapers, and all kinds of text.
  • Punctuation Power: Punctuation and How to Use It, by Marvin Terban. ISBN: 0590386743
    A how and when to use punctuation i.e. apostrophes, brackets, capital letters and much more. Never again will you struggle with the difference between a colon and a semi-colon.
  • The Write Source, by Patrick Sebranek.
  • The Writing Spot, by Carol Elsholz
  • Write One, by Dave Kemper
  • Write Away, by Patrick Sebranek
  • Write On Track, by Pat Sebranek
  • The Writer’s Express, by Lorilynn
  • All Write, by Dave Kemper
  • Inside Writing, by William Salomone
  • A Fresh Approach to Teaching Punctuation, by Janet Angelillo. ISBN 0439222451
  • Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, by Lynne Truss. ISBN: 1592400876

brooke rauzon
Clara Jenson
Patty Lyman

Created Date :
Aug 01 2005 14:50 PM

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