Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Thoughts on Punctuation

The Common Core includes specific expectations about students' use of conventions in their writing. The fifth-grade language standard is:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.5.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.5.2a Use punctuation to separate items in a series.*
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.5.2b Use a comma to separate an introductory element from the rest of the sentence.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.5.2c Use a comma to set off the words yes and no (e.g., Yes, thank you), to set off a tag question from the rest of the sentence (e.g., It’s true, isn’t it?), and to indicate direct address (e.g., Is that you, Steve?).
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.5.2d Use underlining, quotation marks, or italics to indicate titles of works.
While I’m sure that there are several ways to teach end punctuation, I have been reading Janet Angelillo’s  A Fresh Approach to Teaching Punctuation and loving the concept of teaching punctuation through an inquiry-based approach. Additionally, one of the teachers I visited this week had created a chart for her students about end punctuation. She created the chart during a mini-lesson, but used it as a reference tool to remind her students of their responsibility to include periods, question marks, and exclamation points. Her students recognize the chart as an important resource for them.

 I love Angelillo's statement that it is “better to display sentences from books and ask them (the students) to discuss why each sentence works.” (p. 55) As the district’s writing coordinator, I do not have access to my own classroom to use as a lab, but I do have four daughters and several nephews. Last weekend, we looked at I Want My Hat Back by Jan Classan and debated why there is no question mark used as end punctuation when the author writes “Why would you ask me that.” How could there be no question mark? Isn’t there a rule that when a sentence starts with why, it should have a question mark? How does it change the meaning of what the character is saying because of the end punctuation? Could I use this trick in my own writing and if I do, what would that look like? Such simple text inspired some pretty heavy thinking! “I had no idea this book could be so complicated,” my ten year-old said.

I'm looking for ways that others are integrating punctuation and grammar into their daily practices and writing workshops. Please feel free to share in the comments! (Exclamation point intended!)

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