Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsey for creating that place for us to work collaboratively.
What is the purpose of punctuation?
Many believe that punctuation is most important in writing because it signifies both the beginning and ending of sentences as well as indirect (paraphrased) or direct reporting of speech. Students in kindergarten are exposed to end punctuation marks (. ? !) as well as these marks associated with speaking (, “ “). But is the bigger purpose of punctuation to give the reader the necessary clues to understand exactly what the author has written? If yes, then the reader also needs those punctuation marks. Why? Punctuation marks are very important when considering phrasing and smoothness of reading as a part of prosody for fluent readers. A review of the CCR Anchor Standards found these six as possible considerations when thinking about the value of punctuation for both authors and readers.
CCRR Anchor Standards Considered:
Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.
My Version of Editing Sticks
My tools for this work are editing sticks that I created after seeing some that looked more like clear acrylic chopsticks on Twitter. The size of the sticks that resembled chopsticks does make them more accessible to working “inside text” but the main feature is that they must be clear.
(Clear disks with a variety of punctuation including: . ! ? , “ “ )
Inquiry Mini-Lesson for Professional Development with Teachers
Remember that we are working with narratives and one way that we “show” instead of “tell” is to add dialogue to our small moments story. Sometimes as a reader, it is hard to know exactly what a character says because when a speech bubble is not used, the writing does not clearly say or show who is talking.
Name the Inquiry Question:
How do I decide what punctuation to use in my dialogue? How can partners move the editing sticks around to show exactly what a character says in a story?
With a partner, decide which editing sticks you will use, where you will put them and why. Jot a note to record your thinking and any questions that develop.
The principal said the teacher is a great leader.
Listen for conversations and watch for jottings that show there is more than one possibility for this statement. (Who is talking? The principal? Or the teacher?) Chart some of the jottings to help remember the lesson later. (Possibilities – The principal said, “The teacher is a great leader.” “The principal,” said the teacher, “Is a great leader.”)
Authors have to be very careful when they write dialogue in order to make sure that the reader clearly understands who is talking. Changing the punctuation can change the speaker and/or the speaker’s words. Continue to study conversations / dialogue as you read to find more examples from mentor texts. Take time to double check the dialogue in your stories with the editing sticks to make sure that the reader can clearly tell both who is talking and what they are saying.
What kinds of mini-lessons are you using for punctuation, specifically quotation marks for dialogue? How is this lesson different from Daily Oral Language editing? How do you combine the “editing” from writing and the “language” conventions for meaningful practice with text that transfers to student learning?
After all, is the goal “perfect punctuation” or “increased understanding”? What are your thoughts?