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not using punctuation
Old 02-02-2011, 02:15 PM
 
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I'm a fourth grade teacher and I have many students who will write paragraphs, even a whole page, without using one period! It's so frustrating. I've gone through their writing with them and showed them where periods belong and today I was so frustrated I wouldn't even look at it. I sent the student back and had them go back and break their long sentences down. Does anyone have any suggestions for helping to correct this problem? We are writing a lot and practice doesn't seem to help some of these students! Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!


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Old 02-02-2011, 02:32 PM
 
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Give every student a red pencil and their assignment back at the same time,set the timer and everyone has to hold the red pencil and re-read the work for "missing stop signs."
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Feel your pain
Old 02-02-2011, 04:21 PM
 
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I have a few 6th graders who do this! I have no advice, just wanted to let you know I have the same problem.
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Me too!
Old 02-02-2011, 04:31 PM
 
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My students (second graders) still don't even put capital letters where they belong let alone punctuation! I've tried reading it aloud to them and had them listen for the end of the sentence. When my voice goes down, there should be a period. They really don't like to reread their pieces at all. Even when I say you MUST reread, they really don't. I too am stymied!
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Old 02-02-2011, 05:11 PM
 
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Only perfect practice makes perfect. Are you sure you aren't practicing writing without punctuation over and over and over and over?

Our school is big on inventive spelling, writing content above the ability to apply punctuation. The students practice poor writing behaviors with the hopes that the few worksheets that have periods on them will end up in the writing. Granted they are told to punctuate their sentences, but they never really worked at the sentence level except in K. By first grade they were pushed to write as much as possible and worry about editing later.

Since it is many students I expect that what you see is the result of previous methods used.

I'd work at the sentence level for them. Have them write a complete sentence and punctuate it properly. Move up from simple sentences to compound sentences. I'm expecting they don't have many capital letters either.


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read to the wall
Old 02-02-2011, 07:43 PM
 
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I have my students take their paper and read it OUT LOUD to the wall. A lot of times they can hear where the periods belong. Having them read it to the wall seems to minimize their reluctance to reread. I saw another teacher who had picture frames with characters or famous people in them; they had to read it to that "person" and find the errors.

You could also try the dramatic approach and explain that periods allow the reader to stop and take a breath - (a simplified explanation of periods, I know, but some kids "get" this). Then try reading a student's paper the whole way through until you get to the end. See if they can guess why you "couldn't" stop.
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Old 02-03-2011, 07:09 AM
 
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I know many that do the read to the wall approach or the dramatic approach. This may get the kids to put some periods in the right place, but it really doesn't teach the skill properly. So, the job appears to be done, but no learning about sentences has happened. The kids will probably be able to tell you two distinct facts after a year or two of utilizing these methods. A sentence has a subject, a verb, and is a complete thought. You put a period where you take a breath. Applying the first seems ellusive because they are just words for many. They rely on the breath instead of really understanding sentences.

Tricks for language arts or math are methods that get a job done but in the end circumvents appropriate learning.

So, my question to OP would be, what result do you want? Do you want the papers punctuated or do you want the children to have mastered punctuating sentences properly following the rules of punctuation?
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tricks vs. "appropriate" learning
Old 02-03-2011, 07:39 AM
 
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I have to say that I disagree with Practicing. I think most students who come from literate family backgrounds come to school knowing what a sentence is (even if they can't technically define it), because it's become so ingrained as a part of learning language. They can make complete sentences orally. Kids who are learning English or come from low literacy or illiterate households are way behind verbally. The "tricks" I suggested will actually help them build and rely on verbal skills before (or while) having to apply them to writing.
Now if "real learning" means that kids can define a sentence, ... Well, I'd rather have my kids be able to actually write them than define them. This is one thing I'd rather teach by having them be able to do it first, then go back and analyze if necessary, not the other way around.
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Old 02-03-2011, 07:50 AM
 
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Motivation is a component of writing instruction in addition to teaching the rules of punctuation and capitalization.

The key is to break down the rules for where the period goes into understandable components for a 4th grader. Make a simplified chart. At the same time the work of proofreading must be engaging because we are simply competing with so much more outside the classroom door.

Bad grades...red pen marks all over the page....this does not faze many students these days.

(for the capitalization problem,we use green pencils)
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Old 02-03-2011, 07:53 AM
 
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I have also done speaking activities with groups of kids who are all wearing punctuation masks(face is visible through a cutout )

fourth graders loved that activity
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Old 02-03-2011, 08:52 AM
 
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So, why is it that many students from literate families still struggle in 5th grade to identify sentences from fragments and often will identify a phrase as a sentence? Are they really understanding where one sentence starts and where one ends when they are speaking; or are they just following the natural rhythm of speech (picked up by listening to others speak) and imitating that?

Sure, often you can use speech to place a period at what the student thinks is the end of the sentence. But that isn't why you place a period in writing. You place the period because you have a subject (unless it is implied), a verb, and a complete thought. With more complex sentences, you will have a conjunction with or without an additional subject. What about the kid that takes a breath before the and? Should he put a period there?

We will definitely have to disagree. It is essential to know the syntax of language. We put our students in a bind when we do not teach them those skills. Elementary teachers don't see it because they get products quicker, but in upper grades and college, these skills are needed. Students need to know grammar so they can apply it properly. It isn't about sounding good. It is about being correct.
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Old 02-03-2011, 09:10 AM
 
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Practicing, I have enjoyed your posts. The toughest part of teaching the specific components of a sentence is the "completed thought" part. That is difficult to get across to young ELL students. Any tips for that?
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Starting to see the benefits in my class
Old 02-03-2011, 09:17 AM
 
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I stole the idea from another teacher to "read to 3, then me". My writers need to read their writing to 3 classmates and then to me. We are working on making those "editors" accountable. If a child brings a piece to me that they have read to 3 people and it still doesn't have punctuation, capitals, missing words, I call up the 3 people that they read it to and talk to all 4 kids. We discuss paying attention to what the job of the editor is. This seems to be working better and better with each passing day.
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Old 02-03-2011, 09:40 AM
 
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That is difficult for many students, not just ELL. Oral language doesn't use complete thoughts many times. Ask a question - one often gets a phrase in return. The rest is implied based on the question.


My suggestion is start with what they know and start simple. It will take time. It is confusing because you can say, "The cat sat on the mat.". We tell students this is a complete thought. If you were to ask them the question orally, "Where did the cat sit?" the answer would probably be, "on the mat". Rarely do we make people answer in complete sentences (unlike when I went to school).

So, introducing complete thoughts should probably be done by introducing a non-complete thought first. Make sure you are using something they know inside and out so the language isn't confusing them. Make them start asking you those questions to fill in the thought. For example, if you said to them, "on saturday" and just stopped, you would probably get a response of some time from them. If you choose to answer their question, make sure it is phrased in a complete sentence and indicate the difference. Then put it to paper. Put the non-complete thought to paper, put the complete thought to paper. Practice until they learn non complete thoughts.

By making sure you use phrases that will encourage them to ask for the complete thought it will eventually help them understand the difference. One or two examples will not be enough. It is hardly enough for many non ELL students.

That would be my suggestion.
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Practicing..about your posts
Old 02-03-2011, 10:17 AM
 
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Thanks so much for the advice
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Old 02-03-2011, 11:54 AM
 
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You're right: We'll have to agree to disagree.
It's not that I don't think grammar should be taught. I just think that if kids are unable to produce or hear correct oral language, they won't have anywhere to apply those grammar skills. I think the emphasis on "hearing where the periods go" should be first and the explicit grammar teaching can come second. Also, the OP said that she had writers not putting in any periods. Reading to the wall will get them to put in some periods, and that's a place to start. Once a student is getting some periods in, then teaching the grammar to be sure all their periods are placed correctly is fine. JMO

We are in total agreement as far as including examples and NON-examples. Also, although I don't enforce this 100% of the time, I do try to have my students answer in complete sentences. I frequently use sentence frames to guide students' oral responses, and have a fill-in-the-blank signal if I want a one- or two-word answer. (I give the sentence and signal, and they fill in the blank.)

Thanks for the enjoyable dialogue.
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Old 02-03-2011, 06:24 PM
 
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wow! thank you for all of the great ideas. I didn't mean to start something but I really appreciate ALL of the information. I like the ideas that were posted about the students using different colored markers, reading it to others, peer editing, etc. I think that for some of my students, whose "forgetfulness" is not due to their lack of understanding, but rather laziness or rushing, then those are great strategies that focus on self-correction rather than rely on all of my marks.

However, I do agree that the there needs to be the foundation of understanding parts of a sentence and the purpose for punctuation. In one student's case, the student I am really concerned with the most, I think that she does not understand what makes up a sentence and does not know how to punctuate properly. I often require answers in complete sentences and have gone over how to use part of the question to form your answer. This student, however, uses parts of the question that make no sense at all. She tends to write in circles, repeating often. When I've asked her to reread and put in periods, she doesn't use them properly. Thank you for the suggestions on how to go back to basics, starting with what she knows in a more simpler form.
Thank you all for the suggestions
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Old 02-04-2011, 04:43 AM
 
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If she can't answer the questions in a way that make sense it signals an underlying problem with language. Many kids with these issues can generate their own speech and you will find it rather simple compared to peers or that only certain topics are talked about (using what they know to get what they need). It could also be some other underlying disability that makes thinking difficult.

I suggest if she can't make sense of certain questions, she needs a language evaluation (not speech, language). I'd talk to the speech therapist and discuss your concern.

Knowing and a skill being automatic are two different things. I tried to point this out earlier. The other issue is that the "new process" of writing first then worrying about the editing later has made learning to be automatic with skills more difficult. We tell the kids don't worry about it we will fix it later. Practice doing it wrong, we will find the errors after.

Could you imagine telling a math student to not worry about computation, just get the right steps down and then we will go back and fix the faulty computation as the method to teach math?

I'm not implying editing is ever unnecessary, but editing used to be to catch those errors you made when you tried to get everything right the first time but failed. Or catching miswordings or awkward sentences. It has now become clean up of purposeful sloppy work. Then we wonder why it seems kids don't care. We taught them not to care about it. Then they have an overwhelming mess to fix.
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