No matter what grade I teach, I spend a great deal of time explaining how to write a complete sentence. Teachers can tell you why the concept of a sentence so hard for kids to understand:
- People don’t speak in complete sentences. We talk in fragments. Shorthand. So conversation will not teach you to write in complete sentences.
- Children seldom notice punctuation marks as they read. They’re so focused on reading the words that they don’t internalize how punctuation works.
When I started dictating the books I write using Dragon NaturallySpeaking dictation software, I had to SAY the commas, the open quotes, the parentheses, and the periods. Of course, I had a learning curve before I internalized this process.
Now I teach sentence writing by dictating. Example: “Goldilocks comma a very nice girl comma did a very bad thing period” (Goldilocks, a very nice girl, did a very bad thing.) The kids’ learning curve was dramatic: when I said the punctuation, my students understood how to use punctuation marks in their writing.
Whenever my class needs a brush-up on complete sentences, I read aloud as if I were dictating. Students follow along in the reading book as I say every punctuation mark. I ask the students to join with me, reading chorally as soon as they feel comfortable with the format.
Kids really internalize punctuation if you let them say it. Sometimes, just for fun, we’ll have a “say the punctuation” day. I might say, “Tommy comma you won’t go to lunch recess until you finish your work period.” Tommy might reply, “Miss Green comma I am working as hard as I can period.”
Try these techniques. You might find it hard to stop saying punctuation comma though period.