Using simple punctuation


Punctuation is a system of symbols to show the reader where sentences begin and end, to separate sentences and parts of speech and to make meaning clear. Body language, vocal range and pausing punctuates oral language. In written texts punctuation allows the reader to hear the writing the way the author intended. It tells the reader to:

  • stop, slow down or pause.
  • changes the readers voice to sound in a certain way
  • makes the writing make sense
  • helps to show emotion
  • clarify mental images
  • and to build tension

Students who are struggling with simple punctuation may not understand the structure and design of sentences. Deconstructing sentences to identify where and when to use simple punctuation marks in order for sentences to make sense -contain an idea that is complete within the punctuation. Clarity that these ideas composed as sentences do not start at the beginning of each line and end at the end of that same line needs to be developed and practiced. (Incorrect formulaic writing)

Activities to support the strategy

Activity 1: punctuation games

Using these resources, teachers can make three game formats with all resources in PDF form to practise punctuation. Punctuation games (PDF 114.97KB)

Activity 2: the punctuation detective agency

Using the resources found at, download the PowerPoint that is freely available (requires teachers to join Tes Australia- free to join–free to access resources) in order for small groups to work through the activities.

Activity 3: punctuation bingo

Using the resource students play bingo. However they cannot cover the square until they put their punctuation mark in an oral sentence. One student needs to be the caller and arbitrator of correct usage.

Punctuation bingo (PDF 83.61KB)

Variation: Students use a mini whiteboard to write their response prior to covering the square.

Activity 4: learning to question language

Using the inquiry cycle used in science, teachers and students explore and build a powerful context where students ask their own questions about punctuation. This process develops critical thinking about the world and the word. It clearly demonstrates through a deeper understanding why it is worthwhile for students to notice patterns, ask questions, and pay attention to detail.

The teacher models an “I–notice–and–now–I–wonder” process, choosing a model sentence and question that would make the inquiry process accessible to students at all levels of reading and English language learning.

For example, if the students were studying Chicken Sunday, the teacher may start the conversation this way:

“I was reading Chicken Sunday, and I noticed this sentence: ‘When we passed Mr. Kodinski’s hat shop, Miss Eula would always stop and look in the window at the wonderful hats.’ Now I am wondering about the comma. Here is my question: Is there always a comma in the middle when a sentence starts with when?”

The teacher then writes the example sentence and question on the board and asks,“Can you find any other examples that follow the same pattern?”

Students working with partners become detectives on a search through the process of:

  • asking a question about a particular type of sentence
  • making a prediction or hypothesis about what is happening
  • collecting examples of similar sentences to support the hypothesis.
  • students are then encouraged to notice further marks and continue to ask open-ended questions.

Punctuation inquiry (PDF 73.08KB)


Australian curriculum

ACELA1492: Recognise how quotation marks are used in texts to signal dialogue, titles and quoted (direct) speech

NSW syllabus reference

EN2-9B: Uses effective and accurate sentence structure, grammatical features, punctuation conventions and vocabulary relevant to the type of text when respond

NSW literacy continuum reference

COMC10M7: Comprehension, Cluster 10, Marker 7: Responds to and analyses  texts by discussing the ways language structures and features shape meaning.

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