When it comes to teaching punctuation, it’s so easy to fall right into a mere memorization lesson. But, let’s explore this topic and find what’s actually interesting!
I had two ideas.
Add New Punctuation to English
We could explore the missing punctuation of the English writing system. What punctuation marks should we have that we don’t have?
I’d use the problem of noting sarcasm in writing. It’s impossible to tell if someone’s being serious or sarcastic without the usual clues of facial expression, tone, and body language. In writing, we really need a “sarcasm mark”!
I’d also introduce the interrobang: ‽ This combination of exclamation and question is used to show disbelief or excitement or even mark that a question is rhetorical.
I would have students begin by creating definitions, explanations, examples, and misuses of each existing punctuation mark before moving on to add their own. Someday I will actually write this whole lesson out!
Small Punctuation, Big Changes
But I went with the idea of making small changes that have great power:
Sometimes tiny changes lead to huge effects. What is the smallest change we could make to a sentence to change its meaning?
I’d open with that classic comma joke, “Commas save lives”:
- Let’s eat, grandma.
- Let’s eat grandma.
A tiny little comma changes this sentence from a wholesome meal with grandma to… something more sinister! I think I’ve found some controversy.
I’d look for some other examples to share. I’d model by showing how I’d add or remove or change punctuation. And then students would work with sentences I give them before finally, of course, trying to create their own versions from scratch!
By starting with a universal theme and building off some old joke I heard once, I’ve landed on a lesson that is going to get kids’ brains sweating!