Your Turn Lesson: Punctuation Research

When teachers use a gradual release model, teachers can engage more effectively with students. The gradual release provides demonstration – a teacher modeling (writing) in front of her students – to immerse writers in new concepts before they approximate the learning. Students move through an I Do –We Do — You Do model: from teacher observation to active engagement to independent writing, and finally, sharing their thinking with their peers and teacher during end-of-workshop reflection.  Throughout the experience, teachers and students make use of the nomenclature of writers, elevating them to a conscious level of “I am a writer.”

Hook:  Share Punctuation Takes a Vacation by Robin Pulver or Yo! Yes?  by Chris Raschka.

Brainstorm: Students log their thinking/realizations into their writer’s notebooks.

Purpose: Writers, I’ve noticed the ways you have been using punctuation in your writing pieces to make your message clear.  I’ve also sometimes been confused and unsure of your intended meaning because punctuation was missing. Today we are going to study punctuation in our own writing and with mentor texts in order to share some insights – what we’ve discovered about how punctuation helps us be more effective writers.

Model: Ask students to examine a paragraph from a piece of your own writing or use a student sample with permission from the author.

Lynne’s example from her narrative Around the World:

I watched Mick talking with Stuart’s parents in hushed tones.  He probably was explaining that we couldn’t help Stuart here.  To my surprise, I saw them walking towards me, and I felt my heart sink to the pit of my stomach and settle there.  Mick was introducing me, but I was only catching a word here or there.  “…is studying to be a teacher…starts all the beginners…trust her with my own kids.” Then I was weakly shaking hands with them and leading them back to the barn to meet O’ Henry, a faithful friend who had helped me teach many “up-downers” to post to the trot and learn how to canter.  As I reached for the saddle and bridle, I noticed that my hands had begun to sweat.  This wasn’t going to be easy; as a matter of fact, it was going to be downright painful.

Students can jot and turn and talk with each other. What are they noticing about the punctuation you use in your example?  Create an anchor chart with their noticings. What don’t they talk about?  You may make a note for future mini-lessons. In Lynne’s example for a fifth-grade class, the students noticed the use of an apostrophe to show ownership, apostrophes in contractions, a comma before a coordinating conjunction, periods as end punctuation, ellipses to show that words were omitted, and quotation marks to indicate words spoken aloud. They had questions about the quotation marks around the word up-downers, and no one mentioned the use of a semi-colon (perhaps a future mini-lesson).

***For primary grades K-2, create an appropriate model and limit the noticings to one convention such as apostrophe use or end punctuation.

Shared Writing: Students hunt through their writer’s notebook to find several examples of how they have used punctuation to help make their meaning clear.  Students turn and talk, sharing their findings with a partner. Ask some student partners to share in whole group. The teacher observes, sometimes taking notes, sometimes asking questions or responding to questions.

Guided Writing : Pair students to do punctuation research with books they are reading independently, mentor texts shared as read alouds, and a set of books written by a favorite author. Encourage them to use textbooks as well as articles from magazines. There are so many to choose from: CricketZoo Books, National Geographic Kids, Sport Illustrated Kids, Scholastic News, Highlights for Children, Ranger Rick, or NEWSELA Elementary. During sharing/reflection time, partners will demonstrate what they’ve discovered and how they have documented their learning.

Independent Writing: Students use the punctuation they’ve been researching and talking about in their own writing to make their message clear.

Optional: Pairs can plan to teach a mini-lesson to the whole group or a small group conference. List the “punctuation experts” on a special bulletin board where it can be viewed by all. Consider using audio recordings to share.  Recording apps make it easier than ever to use an audio recording as a classroom tool.  A voice memo app is pre-loaded on most iPhones. What about sharing their punctuation research with a video recording? Voice Recorder is easy to download onto classroom devices. Or use Screencastify, a Chrome extension (free version records up to 10 minutes). Saving videos to your educational Google Drive account (unlimited storage) and sharing them to Classroom is so easy.

Reflections (Choose one or two to talk about during this time with whole group):

  • Think about punctuation. What were you already doing in your writer’s notebook and drafts?
  • What did you discover/learn that you will try in future drafts?
  • What did you learn that surprised you?
  • Did you discover that your mentor author liked to use a particular convention (parentheses, dashes, ellipses, etc.) – you noticed this convention in different books?
  • Were there any “AH HA!” moments? What made a lightbulb go on for you? What made you say, “Now I get it!”
  • Did you come across a sentence that was difficult to punctuate? How did you problem-solve?

Some Additional References

Bruno, Elsa Knight. 2009. Punctuation Celebration. New York: Henry Holt.

It features fourteen poems, each addressing a mark of punctuation and its uses.

Krouse Rosenthal, Amy. 2013.  ! Exclamation Mark. New York: Scholastic.

The author describes what an exclamation point does through a delightful narrative.

Loewen, Nancy. 2007. If You Were a Conjunction. Minneapolis, MN: Picture Window Books.

Look for other books by this author; many come with activity pages.

Raschka, Chris. 1993.  Yo! Yes? New York: Orchard Books

Punctuation matters in this illustrated narrative.

Truss, Lynne. 2006. Eats, Shoots & Leaves: Why, Commas Really DoMake a Difference! New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Truss emphasizes comma rules in this picture book.

__________. 2007. The Girl’s Like Spaghetti: Why, You Can’t Manage Without Apostrophes!  New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Understanding the job of apostrophes is the subject of this picture book.

I am participating in #SOL20.  Thanks to the twowritingteachers team for creating this space for writers to share their pieces and grow. slice-of-life2

4 thoughts on “Your Turn Lesson: Punctuation Research

  1. It really is essential that we share examples with students and work with them through these examples. We need to show them how and why things are done an not just say, “Here is what I want you to do.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lynne, I love all of your slices, and bookmark so many of them for use with my students. (Last spring, I finally used one that I bookmarked from my first year of slicing!) I am really struggling this year with my 6th graders and the whole concept of punctuation, and these tips are gold! Hopefully, I will get them back in the classroom this year and we can test them out.

    Liked by 1 person

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