Sunday, December 16, 2007

Punctuation takes a vacation

From September until now, my second graders and I have been all about punctuation. Sentences begin with capital letters. Regular sentences end with periods. Strong feeling sentences end with exclamation points. Questions end with question marks. That sort of thing.

We have worn giant question marks. We have held up stop signs to signify that periods encourage us to STOP at the end of sentences. We have shouted out sentences in our best exclamation point voices. We have stood up to pretend that we are capital letters and sat back down to pretend that we are lowercase letters. We have corrected texts that were missing punctuation. We have changed lowercase letters to capital letters and added periods where they were missing.

Much of the time, my second graders groaned when I cheerfully started off my mini lesson by saying, "Today I want to talk to you about how good writers always use periods at the end of their sentences," because that was the sort of thing they claimed to know already, Miss Brave.

Well, I've been reading their Flat Stanley letters, which is the first lengthy piece of writing they've done for me in quite some time, and I am chagrined to report that a great many of them failed to use any punctuation whatsoever. Their letters look like telegrams without the "STOP" parts: "I am 7 years old I am in second grade my favorite color is blue what is your favorite color". And those of them that did use punctuation often used it incorrectly: "how are you! I love my Playstation? what is it like in california!"

I'm hoping to remedy this with the Flat Stanley Editing Checklist, which asks: "Did I begin each sentence with a capital letter? Did I use periods at the end of sentences? Did I use question marks at the end of questions?"

For now, I can only say: what am I going to do with them oy?.


Mercurius said...

Just stumbled across your blog and want to congratulate you. It is very brave indeed to document your early-career experiences.

I am a newly-accredited teacher in Sydney, Australia, and there's a chance that due to family reasons I'll be joining the education community in NYC during 2008.

I really appreciate your perspective on what it's like for beginning teachers in NYC - I daresay a blog written here in Sydney would contain many of the same experiences!

Thank you

ms. v. said...

Hey there.... you probably don't want to hear this, but my sixth graders don't use question marks, either (some of them). Anyway, for a diversion, which we could all use, I tagged you for a meme. Check it out at for 12/18

Clix said...

*laugh* I don't feel so bad about my ninth graders having run-ons. THANK you! :D

X said...

A few of my seventh graders would fit right in with that class.