Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Things I'm doing well: Grammar and Punctuation

At the moment, I'm taking a bit of time to reflect on where I want to improve and what I'm doing well. You can find the master list of reflections here.

Grammar and Punctuation

It's been a bit of a break with running around at school and trying to rug up against the cold. But I'm back again, this time with a look at grammar and punctuation.

To be honest, I'm a little surprised that I am teaching this well. I was a student who was never taught more than a noun, verb and adjective (Stephen King taught me about adverbs) and basic punctuation. Yet, as I hold more onto the idea that we must write for our readers, I have realised how important that knowledge of grammar and punctuation is. So I've taught myself.

(Hear that Qld government. Teachers can find their own weak points and correct them. We don't need the professional development which you think we need to be shoved down our throats . . .)

The best tool we've found for punctuation is a kinesthetic tool - Kung Fu Grammar. Basically the student and I listed all the punctuation we could think of. Then as we used them, we made 'kung fu' actions which matched (favourites include the full stop - a flat palm pushed forward - and the quotation mark - stand on one leg and wiggle your fingers above your head). We use these when we look at sentences and how they should be puctuated. Somehow the physical movement means that students remember the rules of puctuation. Furthermore, we're using the punctuation vocabulary. And it's fun.

When it came to grammar, I used this fabulous book, which of course is at school - but I'll put a link in later. It has all these fun, active, engaging ways of looking at and describing the mechanics of grammar and then how they're used. It often involves creating displays for visual learners (a simile tree is a big favourite). The students often don't believe me when I tell them they've just done a grammar lesson.

One of my favourites was looking at the different types of sentences. Students matched sentences that were similar and then had to explain why they were similar - they knew the characteristics of the sentence types before they even knew the names of the sentence types. Later we turned the sentence types into cartoon characters with Sergant Imperative being a popular choice. All the students can now name and identify the four type of sentences .

What has this experience taught me this year? Well grammar and punctuation can be fun. Students can learn it and not need to be constantly retaught it. And understanding the aspects of grammar and punctuation is essential when explaining how writing works or doesn't work.



  1. Sounds like fun! And a lot of teachers I know (myself included) have been fighting off that end-of-year cold! Guess we resisted so long to get through the year, and now we've finally let our guards down.

  2. It is a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to my student teacher finishing up so we can get into run on sentences and sentence fragments.

    I'm sure a Queensland winter would make most people in the world laugh - but it's definately very cold here - and we have no type of heating . . .

  3. I'm really interested in finding out the name of the book you used. I googled Kung Fu Grammar and received to decent hits. Can you link?

  4. I got the Kung-Fu Punctuation idea from a British television show called the Unteachables (http://www.channel4.com/life/microsites/U/unteachables/) and adapted it for my own class.

    The Grammar book was from Scholastic Australia - and unfortunately the name of it is still eluding me. I'll keep hunting and make a post with it asap

  5. OMG, I love this idea! I wonder how I could tweak it for Social Studies?

  6. Miss Teacha - I'm sure you could use it for terminology like map terms or history vocabulary.

    I find that we keep using the actions regularly (even if it is without the sounds) when we talk about our writing.