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Guide to punctuation and ideas of how to teach the topics. Full stops, commas, speech marks, exclamation marks, question

Updated on March 28, 2015

Why do we need punctuation?

One thing we must make sure our students understand, is that they are writing for someone to read it. They must appreciate this and do their best to help the reader to understand what they are writing.

This is a difficult concept for little ones to grasp at first - they think they write because they have been told to do it, and need to practice writing sentences.

One thing I always did with my lower ability year 3's is get them to read it back to me. The reason being is that it shows them that if they can't read it, or they have missing content, or they don't have any punctuation then it makes it very difficult to read. We then worked together to edit their work.

Higher ability or those students who can read well, naturally miss out these flaws when they read. They read with confidence and tend to stop where they should have put a full stop or they use exclamations even if it is absent in their work. That is because they have wrote it so they know what it should say. It still needs to be explained to them that if anyone else were reading it then how do they know that is what they meant if they don't put the correct punctuation in? Again, it boils down to the reader and the fact that as writers we should be ever aware that we must help them out as much as possible. If we don't then how can they know exactly what is going on inside our heads?

So what is this hub about?

Teaching literacy skills is vital for students to progress. Using punctuation is vital to help the reader understand a person's work. Without punctuating their work, a student will not be able to up-level easily.

There are lots of worksheets out on the Internet - boring! Lets see what exciting activities we can build into our lessons so the children have fun and therefore want to use these vital tools.

1. Song is always a great way to learn

Using a song to help learners is always a great idea. Some may be reluctant to sing along, others will love it but all of them will be able to remember a catchy song. So if this is linked to their learning then you are onto a winner.

2: Puntuation pyramid

Please share this with your children so they know what pucntuation they should be using at the level they are writing at.

Students should be aware of how to uplevel their work so the punctuation pyrimid is a great resource

You can use this to show children what sort of punctuation you would expect to see within their work depending on what level they are working at.

It is important for everyone to know how to improve, so this is something you should share with the students and show them what level the skill is to include a certain type of punctuation when done correctly.

This could be shown with your display of the punctuation police!

3: I use this in all my classrooms - Punctuation police

A great idea I picked up from Tes is punctuation police. Although I have edited for my own use within my class - but you do that as a teacher right?

The idea is that a student is to act as a police officer and they are on the look out for wrong doings within other students work. They are given a card with punctuation police on

Yep but it can be improved.

I looked at this idea shown on the link opposite and though what a great idea. I did make the cards look prettier to be honest - putting them on proper police badges etc.

One thing I did think it needed was a nice display in the classroom to explain to the students what each punctuation mark meant so they could have a reference. I also used the Simpsons to get the fun factor over to the students too.

I have to apologise for the poor quality of this picture of my display. I have took a picture of a picture using my camera phone. I take picture of all my displays so I can look back and use the better ones for my classes depending on what they need. This is one of the keeps though.

This display would obviously be edited depending on where my students were

I would defiantly include full stops, question marks and exclamation marks for the lower ability to use, but then I would also extend the class' knowledge by including commas, semi colons, colons etc. It is a display that should be added to throughout the year as you go up through the levels. The cards for the police badges can't be seen on the picture as they are on the window ledge below but they are in easy access for all the students to use when they see fit.

I start off in the year telling the students that they can be punctuation police - maybe those who finish first, or those who learned a new punctuation mark and go off to hunt evidence of where it can be used. Eventually though, with sufficient training, the students should just take a card when they are finished and go on the hunt. Independent learning - I'm all for it.

As you can see I was starting to work with level 4 punctuation with the speech marks the last thing I put on this display. I already had full stops, Exclamation marks, question marks and commas for a list.

I love this book

This man has amazing ideas of how to teach children in a fun and imaginative ways. The ideas in this book are not only for punctuation but everything to do with literacy. I would recommend his whole series to help guide you on your way to teaching. Take out games and activities that you like and work for your class and enjoy them because I know the kids will.

It only fills up a small section of my hub however I would recommend a lot of the games within the book. Tried and tested by most teachers who know they work. Go out and buy it. Amazon or ebay are the cheapest places I found to get it from. The link is to the amazon site where you can get it new.

Activities for Practicing Punctuation

Your class may be learning about punctuation marks at the end of sentences. Sentences can end with a period (.), a question mark (?) or an exclamation mark (!). We also use commas (,) and quotation marks (“ ”). Here are some activities that you can do in your classroom to help your students practice punctuation.

  • Clap or Swish: Make a statement or ask a question. Then hold up a hand and let your students indicate the appropriate end punctuation. For a statement, students should clap their hands as if stamping a period: “Clap.” For a question, students should rub their palms in a circular motion as if making a question mark: “Swish.”
  • In the End: Say a simple sentence in different ways so that it is a statement, an exclamation, or a question. For example, say “I can go.” Or “I can go!” Or “Can I go?” (Reorder the words as needed to make a question.) For each sentence, ask your students to name the correct ending mark.
  • Punctuation Challenge: Every morning, write a fairly long sentence for your class to punctuate. Begin simply, with periods, question marks and exclamation points. Move to adding commas and quotation marks. If your students are able to meet the challenge and punctuate the sentences correctly, keep a tally of how many are correct. Set a goal and a reward with your students. For example, “After 10 correct sentences, you earn a raffle. After 25 correct sentences, you earn an ice cream sundae party.”

I found this information on . I haven't gone through the website but it does look interesting.

In my teaching I have used the punctuation challenge as a morning starter. I do like to give the students five minutes in the morning to do some independent learning to get them in the mood for the rest of the day. I tend to use maths challenges to do that but there is no reason why we can't use something like the punctuation challenge.

Giving the students a worksheet full with a text to punctuate is boring for students. Doing short bursts with an activity like this, regularly, is a much better option for students and you alike.

5. Read to the children!

I find this works best in guided groups. And what kid doesn't love being read to.

The idea is for you to read an extract out from a book or make up your own, probably best to use material that you are learning about in your topic or literacy - that way they can steal or magpie ideas from it for later use.

The students have a text which you have edited so it has no punctuation in. Get the students to have a read of it - what is wrong? How did you feel while you were reading it? What could be done to help you read it?

So you have the proper text and you now read it properly, but you exaggerate where the punctuation goes. i.e you take a longer breath where a full stop is, you put on silly voices where speech is etc. etc.

The students are to try to place punctuation marks in the passage as you go along. They should be free to ask you to read it again if they need it.

Once complete, you should talk about why they made those choices. Then they should read it again - did the punctuation help you? Why?

Another book that will help you and your children is:

6. Guided reading sessions

it might sound stupid because I am sure you do this anyway, but talk to the students about how text is put together when you have them for guided reading. Ask questions like:

  • What is that funny mark there?
  • What does it do?
  • Why is it important?

For the more able/older student ask:

  • Why do you think they used that there?
  • How does that add to the description/atmosphere etc of the story?
  • Would you do it any differently? Why?
  • If you wanted to change the effect of the story, could you just change the punctuation? How? Why?

Working in smaller groups allows you to talk about so much and help the students gain a real deep understanding of the text in front of them.

A lot of teachers I talk to about guided reading say it is boring - I don't agree. Get the kids to read in their heads to start with, which speeds things up (or even better, get them to read it at home for homework the night before) and then ask them questions to see their understanding. I've had some amazing conversations, with kids using their brilliant imaginations within guided reading lessons. I have enjoyed those. I have also had the boring ones when the kids don't want to do it and lack imagination but you can't win them all I suppose!!!

7: Punctuation Karate

This is a fun exercise that can be used for all ages

I am a big fan of getting the students off their seats and moving around. A kinethetic learning will love this idea - you should try and use as many different types of learning in your teaching anyway. This is a great starter.

The idea is that you as the teacher, or another student for that matter, reads a text. When it comes to a piece of punctuation the students should do a piece of karate, i.e. a punch for a full stop, a chop for a comma. That way students start to recognise where punctuation should go and what type.

You have a few choices of how to play this one:

  1. A whole class activity. This is normally best way to start a new activity/game because you can see straight away if students are not understanding what to do, or if they are unsure and are copying others (this being the better scenario as they will eventually figure it out). So you start with modelling it for the students. I find it best to do this for a few things and then, as long as they are at a sufficient level, they can come up with their own moves to go alongside a punctuation mark. That way they are taking ownership of it and they have more fun. Win, win. So you read a piece of text and you do the Karate move with the students. A few times of doing this and they should be ready to do it in small groups.
  2. Small group work. Split the class into groups. Each group should have a part of a text, probably labelled with numbers so you know what group comes next. They are then to practice reading the text with their karate movements. Once this is done the groups can read the entire text out in their groups with their movements. I believe this is a good way because they have to perform in front of others - helps with confidence, they have to listen well to others - a life skill which some students struggle with, once listening they will hopefully recognise where and why punctuation is put in the text, something which can be hard for a listener without the karate moves.
  3. Guided reading groups. If you have a group who struggle with say full stops, then why not do this activity for a guided reading group. Again, you could do it as a whole group to begin with so they all understand what is expected of them. Then you could try it individually for say a paragraph at a time.
  4. Make up a story - go around the class and everybody needs to say a sentence to make up a story, (this is great for a good laugh as the children use their imaginations). What they should try and do is use punctuation police at the same time. This is hard to do when it comes to the harder punctuation. It would be good for students who struggle with writing sentences and using full stops.
  5. I have done this with reluctant readers - when you have the quiet reading time you ask them to practice punctuation karate while reading. Of course they are more reluctant to do it if they are the only one but it can encourage them to read better. And if they are the show off kind they could perform it to the class after.

I use internet games a lot because using the computer is a life skill now

BBC Bitesize is brilliant. Get the children used to the site and revision is so much simpler when they need to do it for those dreaded SATs. They are child friendly - this one is based on the popular tv show trapped.

They can be good starters or good plenaries depending on how far you are with your class. A big fan.

This website offers the lot.

Websites for literacy skills are not as numerous as those for maths for obvious reasons but this is a site I love. It has everything you need including the punctuation games the link I gave you leads you to.

I would recommend you have a search around this site to help with your teaching.

Again good for starters and plenaries.

10: Using the computer

Computer skills are essential. I am a real believer that children should learn to type at an early age and have regular practice in using a keyboard.

The idea behind this is that when using word a green squiggly line appears below your writing if you have a piece grammar incorrect. Students should know that if they right click on this it would give you some hint about how to correct it. However, you should encourage students to correct it themselves by reading what they have wrote and trying to decide how to correct it. The great thing about a computer is that you can edit it as often as you like until you do get it right.

This is a great way to help with spellings too - encourage students to correct the red squiqgly lines themselves. I usually say have three goes before clicking the right mouse button if you are finding it too hard.

11. Using the computer (2)

Another idea I have done is to have a piece of text on the computer which has no punctuation. I tend to save this into the school system so the students can access it themselves and so I don't have to load it up onto every computer.

I have used this as an ongoing starter to computer lessons before - A large text which they can't complete within the five minutes allowed each week is placed on the school system. I use it as a competition to entice the students. The first pair to complete correctly gets a reward. It also allows students to enter the computer room and start work without all the disruption caused when you move room, the loud talking because they don't know what they are doing and the disruptive behaviour that follows. They are on task and working which is good. Any pair that are falling behind and so lose interest you simply help to push them on so they still have a chance of winning the prize and therefore the motivation is there for the following week.

They will need to save the first draft in their 'my documents' so they can carry on from the previous lesson.


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      Cdans 2 years ago

      Love these. Some fab stuff at too

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