Tag Archives: Punctuation

Supporting Convention Work in the Units of Study: Punctuation and Spelling

essaySupporting Convention Work in the Units of Study: Punctuation and Spelling

Written by Anna Gratz Cockerille

One of the bottom-line essentials of writing instruction, detailed in Chapter 3 of A Guide to the Common Core Writing Workshop, part of the Units of Study for Opinion, Information, and Narrative Writing by Lucy Calkins and colleagues, is this: 

"Children deserve to be taught explicitly how to write. Instruction matters—and this includes instruction in spelling and conventions as well as in the qualities and strategies of good writing." Further, Lucy explains, “Writing improves in a palpable, dramatic fashion when students are given explicit instruction, lots of time to write, clear goals, and powerful feedback (p.21).”

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Grammar Day is Tomorrow!



How many of you feel like grammar should be celebrated every day, and not just once a year? Probably most of you, and we’re totally with you on that. Grammar is everywhere. When used properly, it tells a story. When used improperly, it tells a vastly different story. In a pre-celebration of National Grammar Day, we want to take a moment to touch on three of the most misused and maligned punctuation marks, along with links to some sites that support the text in a lighthearted way. Are we breaking one of the most basic grammar rules by focusing on punctuation? We’ll leave that up to you to decide.

Embrace the comma.

Some of the most common grammar mistakes people make involve the comma. Commas are probably the most overused and abused punctuation mark. How many comma bloopers have you seen on your Facebook and Twitter feeds? As you can see, commas are very useful. Despite the comma’s obvious utility, many people hate it. You could follow the rules on when to use and not to use the comma, but rules are made to be broken. Then there’s the Oxford Comma, or the serial comma. We won’t say any more than that in order to avoid warfare. So what rules should you follow? Let’s start with whatever makes you NOT sound like a cannibal.

The semicolon really does have a use.

Semicolons are also important, and not just as half of the characters needed to make a winking face. No other form of punctuation has as rich a history. Would you believe that at one time duels were fought over a semicolon? Or that a murderer and his counsel argued that a semicolon should have saved him from execution? The semicolon has been much-maligned in recent history, and usage has dropped considerably. But really, like so many of us, the semicolon is just struggling to be understood. Now is the time to fall back in love with the semicolon! Think of it this way: the semicolon is a subtle hybrid of colon and comma. See how easy that was? There’s nothing to fear…now go forth and create some complex lists!

Apostrophes have a purpose. Maybe.

Along with their lower level brethren the comma, apostrophes are the most abused punctuation marks. People love them, and people hate them. The apostrophe has been crowned the undisputed Grammar Madness champion.  There are even movements to eradicate the apostrophe in the United States and England! Why so much emotion surrounding the poor apostrophe? Once upon a time, apostrophes were used everywhere. Over time, the way it was used evolved. Apparently the apostrophe is now considered such a public nuisance that the trend is to stop using them altogether. Really. (When in doubt, don’t use an apostrophe!) How can we fix this problem? The apostrophe wields amazing power when used for good and not evil, but are they necessary? Follow these simple rules and you, too, can avoid #apostrophefails and return the apostrophe to its rightful place in the world.

Now get out and punctuate!

Check back later tomorrow for a little something extra to help you and your students celebrate Grammar Day every day! (Hint: It involves the coupon code GRAM15)