Lesson Overview: It has been my experience that even college students seldom use commas and semi-colons correctly. Rather, they seem to insert them at random, or they neglect to insert them at all. This lesson is designed to review the use of commas and semi-colons. It consists of two worksheets and a handout with rules for correctly using these two punctuation marks. Though I use a variant of this activity with my college students, I believe it can be successfully adapted to high school or even junior high school students.
Outcomes: 1) Students will understand and apply eight rules for using commas.
2) Students will understand and apply three rules for using semi-colons.
Lesson Introduction: Ask students to list rules they know regarding the use commas and semi-colons. After commenting on their knowledge of these rules (correct, incorrect, or incomplete) explain that this lesson will help them review the effective use of these two punctuation marks.
Procedure: Divide students into groups of four. Have each group choose a spokesperson. Give each group a copy of worksheet #1 , and instruct them to take turns reading the sentences and inserting commas and semi-colons where they believe they should go. While the groups are working, write the sentences from the worksheet on the board or on an overhead transparency. When groups are finished, have the spokespersons take turns inserting the punctuation marks in the sentences you have written on the board or transparency. Ask how they decided where and when to insert them. Some may have used comma rules; others may have inserted the punctuation where the readers paused; and still others may have simply inserted them randomly. Ask if they are confident they have inserted them correctly. Asking students to explain their reasons for inserting the commas and semi-colons will force comparisons between their preconceptions/mis-conceptions and the rules for correct punctuation.
Now give each group the list of rules and tell them to go back through the sentences and correct any errors in their initial attempt at inserting commas and semi-colons. Instruct them to write the number of the rule being used next to each comma or semi-colon they use. (e.g. C1 for comma rule #1 or S1 for semi-colon rule #1) When the groups are finished, have the spokespersons again come to the board (or overhead) and correct any errors from their first attempt at punctuating the sentences. Have them state the rule they used for each comma or semi-colon they inserted. Correct any mistakes, and state the appropriate rule for each correction.
Assessment/Practice: Distribute the second worksheets and have students complete them. This should be done individually, either in class or as a homework assignment. Correct the students' work, and return it to them.
Click on the blue text to access the comma and semi-colon rules, worksheet #1, and worksheet #2.
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Last Updated 11-9-2015
Edmund J. Sass, Ed.D.