Some children have a great deal of difficulty with punctuation. While there are all kinds of worksheets and workbooks available to help children practice using punctuation, for some children that format just doesn’t seem to work. Here are some alternative tips:
Sentence word and punctuation cards: Create sentences with correct punctuation and with the first word capitalised (as well as any proper nouns capitalised). Write the sentence in fairly large letters on paper and cut between all the words and the punctuation to make cards. Then dictate the sentence, one word (and punctuation marks) at a time, and have the child put the slips of paper in order. Later, you can dictate the whole sentence, have the child put the word cards in order, and then have them add the correct punctuation cards. At each stage, after the child has made the “card sentences,” have her write them correctly on a sheet of paper or on the blackboard.
Recognising punctuation during read-aloud: Some children have difficulty noticing punctuation marks and using them correctly while reading. Have such a child watch for commas, and before reading the next word, tap the table or book once with his finger or a pencil; for semi-colons and colons, two taps; and for end punctuation (periods, question marks, exclamation marks) three taps. If the child doesn’t notice the mark, instead of saying anything, simply do the taps yourself, which will remind him to watch for upcoming punctuation. If he stops reading when you do the taps, ask him to go back to the beginning of the sentence, re-read–and do the taps himself. Once he is regularly doing the taps, you can have him stop “tapping” and just pause–shorter pauses for commas, slightly longer ones for semi-colons and colons, and full stop pauses for end punctuation. Another thing you can try (perhaps after he has the tapping down pat), is to have the child stop and take a breath at each punctuation mark–light breaths for in-sentence punctuation, and big breaths for end punctuation.
Other ideas: What other methods have you used to help your child recognise and correctly use punctuation in writing and reading? Why not share your favourite ideas in the comments. Thank you!