Editing Sticks

ImageTuesday 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

2014-08-22 15.01.39

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?

Inquiry Set-Up:

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.


Active Engagement:

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?

10.26.16 Tweet from Elise Whitehouse (@OAS_Whitehouse):

punctuation sticks.JPG

12 responses

  1. Punctuation is so important to making meaning as a reader. As you have shown with the principal/teacher example above, the meaning can be changed entirely by punctuation. I love teaching children to punctuate direct speech. I find that ‘acting out’ the speech helps with placement of the talking marks. I like the interactive way you have suggested using the editing sticks. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Norah!
      Punctuation is so much more than a worksheet or copying sentences. I love your “acting out” idea as well!
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  2. Punctuation is so important when we read text and such an afterthought for our students. The other work seems to take over their brains leaving little room for those tiny marks! The only way to it seems to make those marks come to life is to make punctuation a bit of a treasure hunt.

    I love those sticks and the implicit connections to the CC. I hadn’t thought of those as connected. My colleague, Cathy Skubik @cskubik does some amazing stuff using Jeff Anderson’s books and it all seems to be around play.

    1. Julieanne,
      I often wonder if the “flow of writing” is the most important thing when drafting. But then we need to teach a quick way to flash punctuate so writers can share their work with other readers. That also helps build the case for better punctuation skills.

      I’m all about building the connections for independence and transfer. I think we need to think deeply about HOW and WHEN we can and should do that. To me, this is so much more important than “red inking” a paper. I think Catherine has also mentioned Jeff Anderson – that’s two so I’ll be adding to my TBR list!

      Thanks for your help – still working on the student lessons!

  3. […] 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 pla…  […]

  4. Love the editing sticks! For our older students, we have used the “Dear Jack/Dear Jill” love/not love letters. (spoiler alert! STOLEN LESSON–I don’t know the origin; I’m sorry. If anyone knows, please email me!) Jill either thinks the world of Jack, or wants him to go away because he’s no good for her. The words are EXACTLY the same, but due to punctuation, when you read the letters aloud, there are completely different meanings. The students think they are hilarious, and yet, they are learning WHY we use punctuation.

    1. Oh, Jennifer! I want to see those letters!

      What absolute fun AND so filled with meaning!
      Thanks so much for commenting!

      1. Love the internet. . . first hit on google
        Lynne Truss’s book, Eats Shoots & Leaves (Profile Books 2003), has a wonderful Dear Jack letter.

        Dear Jack,
        I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy – will you let me be yours?

        Dear Jack,
        I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men I yearn! For you I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?

        Retrieved from http://www.onlinegrammar.com.au/the-power-of-punctuation/

  5. Love that punctuation is about meaning and understanding and purpose. When we teach it in this manner it becomes more than it skill, it becomes a revision tool. Writers think about the moves they want to make with punctuation and how punctuation adds meaning to a story when they are reading. The constructivist approach to the sticks is a great way to let kids “play” with punctuation to see how it impacts meaning.

    1. You are welcome, Clare!

      Punctuation has to be purposeful if we are going for independence AND transfer!!! That means it is ALL about the meaning! ❤

  6. […] FUN method used by this author is editing sticks and you can read more about those  clear sticks here.  Students can work on the MEANING, or purpose for punctuation, as well as explore how the meaning […]

  7. […] Editing Sticks – my blog post […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

My Zorro Circle

it is what it is

Steph Scrap Quilts

"Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads..."


A meeting place for a world of reflective writers.

Tim's Teaching Thoughts

Ideas and Reflections on Teaching

Hands Down, Speak Out

Listening and Talking Across Literacy and Math

Teachers | Books | Readers

Literacy Leaders Connecting Students and Books

Dr. Carla Michelle Brown * Speaker * author * Educator

We have the perfect words. Write when you need them. www.carlambrown.com

Curriculum Coffee

A Written Shot of Espresso

Mrs. Palmer Ponders

Noticing and celebrating life's moments of any size.


Seeking Ways to Grow Proficient, Motivated, Lifelong Readers & Writers

Doing The Work That Matters

a journey of growing readers & writers


adventures in multiple tenses

The Blue Heron (Then Sings My Soul)

The oft bemused (or quite simply amused) musings of Krista Marx -- a self-professed HOPE pursuing Pollyanna

Middle English

Life as an English teacher leader

steps in the literacy journey

Walking the Path to Literacy Together


Smile! You’re at the best WordPress.com site ever

Resource - Full

Sharing Ideas, Strategies and Tools

%d bloggers like this: