Commas can be confusing to students. When they first learn about comma use, students often understand the concept of how to use commas, but the knowledge doesn't always stick. Finding ways to help the knowledge stick is the key to helping students understand exactly how to use commas. After you teach students how to use commas, reinforce the lesson with an activity that gets them involved in comma use.
Cereal Serial Commas
Commas that combine lists are called serial commas. You can play with the idea of serial-cereal by using cereal boxes to create a list that needs commas. Cover cereal boxes with white butcher paper. Come up with a list of items and write each word on one cereal box. Make large commas out of black butcher paper. Arrange the cereal boxes in a row and have the students tell you where to put the serial commas to connect the cereal boxes.
Commas are used to join phrases into compound sentences. You can help students understand how to use commas by teaching them that the phrases are like building blocks and commas are what holds them together. Use foam blocks with phrases written on them and self-adhesive Velcro to illustrate how to use commas to create compound sentences. The Velcro represents commas. Have the students tell you how to connect the blocks with the Velcro.
Daily Oral Language
Daily Oral Language is an exercise that gives students the opportunity to identify and correct spelling, grammar and punctuation errors in sentences written on the board. You can use Daily Oral Language to help teach comma use. Write a few sentences on the board that require commas. You can leave commas out, add extra commas or put them in the wrong places. Have the students write the sentences correctly.
Commas Out Loud
Something as simple as having students tell you where a comma belongs can help reinforce what you've taught them about comma use. Write two or three sentences on the board. The sentences should need commas but not include them. Read the sentences aloud, have the students shout “comma” at the appropriate times in the sentences and add the commas when they indicate them. Afterward, go through the sentence again to make sure the commas are placed properly. This can be done with lists to teach serial commas, as well.
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