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Punctuation marks may be small, but they are powerful! Students sharpen their knowledge of sentence structure, grammar, expression, and meaning with a classmate.
An English grammarian, Lynne Truss, wrote the best-selling book Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. One of her many points is that the placement and choice of punctuation marks can greatly affect the meaning of sentences. How many ways can you punctuate these four words---eats shoots and leaves---to get different meanings? (Think pandas and bamboo, or Western movies for two examples).
Challenge students to compose or find groups of words or sentences that are equally open to different punctuation. Write an example on a dry-erase board with Crayola® Dry-Erase Markers, leaving out all punctuation. Examples might include a simple sentence such as "No dogs please" or more complex ones such as "Among students meetings take place every two weeks to discuss assignments."
Students ask a classmate to add punctuation in a contrasting marker color. Read it aloud and discuss the meaning. How else could the sentence be punctuated to change its meaning and the expression with which it is read? For example, what are the differences among "No dogs, please," "No dogs please!", "No dogs please," "No! Dogs please" and "No, dogs please"?
Erase the sentence with a tissue and try more possibilities.
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