Thursday, March 5, 2009

Post #11 - Let's Talk Semicolons

Objective: To edit run-on sentences and comma splices using semicolons.
Materials: Previously laminated & cut sentences demonstrating comma splices & run ons, envelopes, previously laminated & cut punctuation marks

One of the hardest things for an English teacher is, I think, to come up with lessons that reach those kinesthetic learners. It's sometimes difficult to make the subject - especially grammar - tangible. But I want to reach those kids; I want to give them something they can put their hands on. I frequently try to create grammar activities such as these, where they have to move words around to practice the grammar lesson.

Today's lesson...Semicolons! Sem-ee-colons? Sem-I-colons? Those "j" wannabes.
Here's a word document with teacher notes & student directions for your files.

This will take some planning-period prep (or evening TV-with-hubby-prep, if you have a compatriot willing to wield scissors).
1. Get some sentences students can look at for comma splices/run-ons. I used GrammarBytes!; she has long sentences which are ALWAYS amusing.
2. Laminate the pages and then cut each sentence up into groups of phrases, and separate them into envelopes.
3. Put all the same sentences into separate envelopes labelled #1, #2, etc.
4. Make pages of punctuation marks, laminate, and cut them up. Divide them into envelopes (I used 3 periods, 3 commas, and 2 semicolons in each) that are specially labeled; I colored my envelopes blue, for instance.

Semicolon Lesson/Activity
1. Make sure your students know how a semicolon is used! I gave a brief overview of run-ons, comma splices, fragments, and semicolons. Most of my students had some inkling of what they were, so I didn't have to go in-depth. If this is entirely new for your students, you might need to spend more time on definitions and examples.
2. I used a short .ppt presentation for my review. Robin Simmons at Grammar Bytes! has a great one ready-to-go here.
3. Explain rules to students: each group will get a blue envelope with punctuation marks. They should use these marks to correct the sentences they will receive in white envelopes. First they must put the sentence together in a logical order. They should next use their punctuation marks to correct the sentence. When they think their sentence is correct, raise their hands, and you come and check. If the sentence is right, they should take out their punctuation so they don't accidentally put it into the white envelope, and then put the sentence back in the envelope. After that, they may get the next sentence - mine had to do 5 total, and it took about 20-25 minutes for all groups to finish.
4. Divide them into groups - I would not have more than 4. 3 is probably ideal, but 4 has good participation rates, too.
5. Give each group a blue envelope - I had them count to make sure all the punctuation was there first - and then hand out the white envelopes and let 'em go!

This was really fun for student and teacher! They were really working hard to get those sentences right. I didn't even have a huge reward - a piece of candy for each of the winners - but that competition is enough to get them moving. Follow up the lesson with more practice - maybe a worksheet or writing assignment for homework. Tomorrow we will go over all the sentences again for bellwork.

Again, here's a word document with teacher notes & student directions for your files.

Source: mich! (me, auf deutsch)

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