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Sentence Sense

Punctuation marks may be small, but they are powerful! Students sharpen their knowledge of sentence structure, grammar, expression, and meaning with a classmate.

  • Grade 2
    Grade 3
    Grade 4
  • 30 Minutes or Less
  • Directions

    1. 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).
    2. 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."
    3. 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"?
    4. Erase the sentence with a tissue and try more possibilities.
  • Standards

    LA: Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 2 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

    LA: Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

    VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resource: Punctuation Takes a Vacation by Robin Pulver

    Prior to opening the lesson, ask students to work in small groups to make a list of all punctuation marks that they are familiar with and include the purpose for the mark. Examples could include: a period signals the end of a statement; a comma signals the end of a phrase and tells the reader to pause; an exclamation point tells the reader to put extra emphasis on the sentence, etc.

    Working in small groups, students create a list of frequently made spelling and punctuation errors. Post the list in the classroom for ease of reference.

    Students work in small groups to create original sentences that lack punctuation. Write sentences on index cards. Place cards in a recycled box labeled "No More Vacation for Punctuation!" Students work in teams of two to insert appropriate punctuation for each sentence. Assign a checker for accuracy!


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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