Common Core Connection
There is so much writing involved in Common Core that the students must learn to use proper punctuation and grammar. Writing is such a great way to allow them to apply their knowledge and express their comprehension. This is why we have to practice writing from the very beginning of first grade. Learning writing conventions in first grade lays the foundation for students to write clear, engaging pieces.
In this lesson I model using correct punctuation, students create several sentences, and then the students evaluate each other's work. I use transitions frequently in the lesson to keep my students engaged. You may want to see my video: transitions.
I usually start my lessons with a chant or video and the class seated on the lounge. I try to get them to do something that stimulates visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners. I do the chant, "A sentence begins with a capital letter, is a complete thought, and has a period, question mark, or exclamation mark at the end." I do it them three times. You may want to see the mnemonics for the in this video: punctuation chant. The repetition helps them remember the new information and it gets them excited.
I model writing about my family. Doing so allows me to show how punctuation works in context, which I find is not only more engaging but also more effective than, say, using worksheets exclusively to drill punctuation. I try to use a sentence with a period, question mark, and an exclamation mark. As I work I reference the punctuation poster. I explain that they will have to do this later. I am modeling punctuation and I explain each punctuation mark and the reason for I am using it.
So, on the board I write: I am so excited to go see my Mom in Kentucky! She cooks the best food. Will she make salmon or chicken my first night home? I know it will be awesome!
They love getting to know my personal information. They connect with me and this builds such a special relationship between us. So, anytime we can use personal information I try to because it makes the lessons more meaningful.
I give specific instructions for them to write three sentences. I write that on the board. One with a period, one with a question mark, and one with an exclamation mark. They can write about anything they want, but it should all be about one thing. I list some choices on the board. If I don't list the choices they will just sit there thinking about what to write about. Some good choices are: My Family, My Birthday Party, or Summer.
I walk around helping them get their ideas out. It is very helpful to try to get them to say the sentence aloud. Then make sure it makes sense. Next, write. I often tell them to count the words when they say it aloud. They can count the words on paper too, because one issue with young writers is leaving out a few words that they meant to include.
This is one of the most exciting times in our day, and usually everyone wants to read their work to the class. This is great, but I only let two or three students read depending on time. Now, I allow the others to read during snack or anytime we have a break to appease them. I do try to keep the peace, and when my students are motivated I support them to the best of my ability.
After each student reads their work, their peers are supposed to give them academic feedback. This means they need to say what the person did well, what they agree with, what they disagree with, and why they feel the way they do. Now, most everyone struggles with evaluating their peers' work - even me. So, I am usually the first one to evaluate work. I may say, "I agree that the first sentence needs an exclamation mark, but aren't you asking a question in the second one. Shouldn't you use a question mark when you ask something? Does anyone agree or disagree with me?" Basically, I am modeling and promoting discourse.
Now, unless I go over the rules for speaking and listening before we start this section, I am going to get frustrated. So, I say, "Sit criss cross applesauce pockets on the floor, hands in your laps talking no more. Listen to the speaker. Look in the speakers eyes. Think about what the person is saying. Nobody can go to bathroom while somebody is presenting. Go before or after the person is reading." Everyday I say this to promote the behavior I desire and it really works. But, if I forget (and I do), I simply stop and begin to tell the class the rules. It is a very simple, but powerful way to get the class to do what I want.
So, now we are back at the lounge and I am wrapping this lesson up. I explain that we will use the poster for our punctuation guide as we go through the year. We will learn to even read with different expression based on the punctuation mark. This will be something we work on all year.
I like to try to allow the students to repeat the lesson objective in a fun way. This repitition helps make the learning concrete. Verbalizing the goal also helps them take ownership of their learning. So, I say, "I can use a period, question mark, and exclamation mark in a sentence." They echo to a friend and then repeat is with me. Then we do the chant with hand motions: A sentence starts with a capital letter, is a complete thought, ends in a period, question mark, or exclamation mark.