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ACK! Punctuation!!

Context for this Lesson

Teaching Strategies: 
School District: 
School or Organization: 

GENERAL TOPIC:  Identifying punctuation                      

GRADE: 9-12th Life Skills

FOCUS QUESTIONS:  What are the different types of punctuation? What different meanings to punctuation marks have? How does understanding punctuation help us to read with expression?


  • Chart paper
  • Markers
  • Feeling cards
  • Copies of “Bully” script
  • Magazine covers



§110.32. English Language Arts and Reading

(3)  Reading/Comprehension of Literary Text. Students are expected to analyze the structure and graphic elements (e.g. punctuation).


§117.64. Theatre, Level I.

(1) Perception. The student develops concepts about self, human relationships, and the environment, using elements of drama and conventions of theatre. The student is expected to:

(C)  employ stage movement and pantomime consistently to express thoughts, feelings,

and actions;

(D)  develop and practice effective voice and diction to express thoughts and feelings




Activity: Face Pass (with feeling cards)

"Good morning! If I could please have all of you come in to the center of the room and make a sitting circle for me. Okay, we are going to do an activity called Face Pass. I am going to hold up a card. On each card is a different feeling that someone might have. I will hold up a feeling card and we will start here with the person sitting to the right of me. This person will turn to the person to the right of them and show only with their face what that feeling looks like. Then, the next person would turn the person to his or her right side and make a face that goes with that feeling. Each person in the circle will get to practice making the facial expression for each feeling. If you feel as though you are uncomfortable with participating, you may say, “pass". However, I encourage all of you to participate at least one time." 

"After everyone has gone, we will do the next feeling card. Are there any questions?" Students and facilitator will play Face Pass for the following feelings: Sad, Happy, Excited, Angry, and Confused.

Side- Coaching-

  • For example, if I showed the feeling card for “angry,” I would turn to the person to the right of me and make a face like this (use your own face as an example) . 
  • We already did the ‘happy’ card, but how is being excited different from being happy?
  • If you are having trouble, think about a time when you felt _______. How could you show that feeling with your face?

"Great job! What did we just do? We just used our faces in order to show with our bodies a certain feeling. When we are reading our play, we will be moving our bodies and using a variety of facial expressions in order to portray the story. Now we are going to talk about showing expression through our voices. How are some ways that we might show how we feel by using our voices?" Allow for student response. "Those are all great answers. Lets practice using our voices to portray emotions. We are going to do a second quick round of Face Pass, but this time we are going to add sound. I will hold up another feeling card, but instead of using your face, this time you will say the word “Hey” to the person to your right. You will say “Hey” in the tone of voice that matches that feeling. Let me show you first." Facilitator models the activity for students. "Are there any questions? Great! Let’s try." Students and facilitator do activity. What did you notice about this activity compared to when we just did facial expressions? How might your voice tell someone how you are feeling?"

Transition: "You all did such a great job with using your voices! We are going to continue to discuss reading with expression."

"Can anyone tell me what you think it means when I say, “reading with expression”? Facilitator allows time for student responses. Great ideas. When reading with expression we are reading our part with a certain tone of voice and we read at a certain pace. What do I mean when I say ‘tone’? Allow for student response. What do I mean when I say ‘pace’? Allow for student responses. Excellent. The tone is the volume in which we speak. If I was a character who was really excited, I might say my lines differently than if my tone was supposed to bed sad or quiet. But….how do we know what tone or pace we should use when reading? One way is to identify punctuation within the text. What is punctuation? Who can tell me an example of a type of punctuation? There are several different types." Allow for student responses. Facilitator writes the types of punctuation on the chart paper in the form of a table similar to the one below. Students help fill in the charts based on facilitator prompts, such as, “What is the symbol for a period?” “What tone might a period create in a sentence?” etc.  The following is an example of the chart:







Serious; Statement

Exclamation Point


Happy, Excited, Surprised

Question Mark


Confusion, Wonder


"Who can think of a sentence or statement that we could use as an example?" Allow for student responses. Facilitator will choose one statement to look at as a class. "Lets look at this statement: insert student-made statement here. Who would like to read this for me? Student reads the statement aloud. Nice work. What do you think would happen if we changed the punctuation at the end? Let’s try." Facilitator writes out the sentence again, this time changing the punctuation to a question mark. "Now let’s read this sentence." Students and facilitator say. the revised sentence together. "How did our voices change when we read that sentence? Why? Okay, what if we changed it to an exclamation point?" Facilitator writes down sentence, changing the punctuation to an exclamation point. Students and facilitator say the revised sentence together. "How did our voices change when reading the sentence that way? Why? So, as we can see, punctuation can really change the way words sound when we read."


"We are going to continue to focus on those three types of punctuation that we just charted and explored together! Now that we have discussed these three common types of punctuation, we are going to look at a magazine cover that I found this week. Please join me again in a sitting circle, so that we can look at this together."



*This lesson utilizes Scholastic Magazine as its artifact and therefore the basis of part 2 of the lesson which is the role work. Another magazine, book or newspaper article can be substituted.

"Lets look at the Scholastic Magazine cover that I found." Facilitator shows first title, which reads, “Say, ‘AHHHHHHHH!” with a picture of a shark on the cover.

  • Describe to me what you see...
    • Possible student responses: a shark, the ocean, blue colors, writing, punctuation (exclamation point)
  • Analyze…What might the punctuation tell us? What feelings does that punctuation evoke? What might this story be about? How might readers feel when reading this story?
  • Relate… How does your voice change when reading this headline? What if we changed it from an exclamation point to a question mark, does it make sense? Let’s try  to read it like that all together! Why might it be important to understand that the punctuation mark here is a _____ and not a ______?

         Transition: You all brought up some very interesting points about punctuation and how it might connect to a story. We are going to further explore some other magazine covers, but before we do, I have a surprise for you! We have a very special guest today. Her name is Lisa and she is a magazine editor from Scholastic magazine! She really needs your help to solve a big problem. Do you think that you can help her? Great! When I put on my scarf and glasses, I will become “Lisa".” Facilitator puts on scarf and glasses and enters role.

 Teacher-in-Role: Person in a Mess

"Hello, class! My name is Lisa and I am a magazine editor for Scholastic Magazine, I think you all may have heard of that magazine before? Well, anyway, I am having just an awful time today. Where I work, we have deadlines every single Friday. We have to make sure that our magazine is ready for print! And if it isn’t ready by 5:00 tonight, I could lose my job!! See, the problem is that I was editing my magazine, making sure my titles made sense and had correct punctuation, but in the middle of matching my titles to the images on the cover of the magazine, MY COMPUTER FROZE!!  Has that ever happened to any of you?" Allow for student response. "I lost all of my hard work. I was trying to remember which punctuation goes with which magazine title, but I forgot how to use my punctuation correctly! I heard that there are some really intelligent students here that might be able to help me figure out which title with correct punctuation matches the picture. Do you all think that you can help me? Please? Oh great! Let’s get started, because I don’t have much time!" Teacher in Role gets supplies out and splits students into four groups of three.

"Now that I have you into groups, I am going to pass out to you some secret copies of my magazines. Please don’t tell other classes that you’ve seen these before they’re sent out into the public! Each group will have a different magazine cover with a picture on it. I will also pass out to you three different titles. The first thing that I want you to do in your group is just describe what you all see. Remember, this could be colors, words, shapes, etc." Allow students time to complete this step. "Next, I want you to analyze the magazine cover. What do you notice about the punctuation? What might this story be about? How might this story make a reader feel?" Allow students time to complete this step. "Now, I’d like for you to think about all of those things and use that information to help you to decide what title correctly matches the magazine cover. What title conveys the same mood or tone? What title has the correct subject matter? Remember, punctuation is very important! You may look back to the poster that you made with your teacher to help you remember what each punctuation mark looks like and sounds like! I will give you some time to work on these, and when we are all finished, we will share our work with each other! Are there any questions? Let’s get to work!"

TIR walks around the classroom to assist students with their work, if needed. After all students have finished, groups will share with the class how they matched the titles to the pictures.

"Oh my goodness! You all were so helpful in showing me how to match the correct titles with the pictures for my magazine covers. I cannot thank you enough. You all saved my job! Your teacher would be very proud of how you all were able to identify punctuation while reading. I had such a great time with you all today, but if I don’t get back to work and turn all of these magazine covers into my boss, I will be in big trouble. Thank you again….bye!!!"


  • What does the picture show you?
    • What might that tell you about the subject of the title?
    • What feelings might that create?
  • Okay, what did you do to help you narrow down from three titles to choosing between these two?
    • What about this image connects with these two titles?
    • How might one title connect better to this image?
  • Try reading the titles aloud. Does it make sense to use that punctuation at the end? Why?

Transition: "Great job, class. When I take off my scarf and glasses I will be your teacher again and I will be out of role as Lisa." Facilitator removes costume and steps out of role. "I am so impressed with the work that you all just did. Now, lets come back into a circle together. You can stand or sit, whatever is comfortable for you."



We did a lot of different activities today, so let us spend a few minutes reflecting upon our lesson….

  • What did we do today?
    • How did we use our faces to show emotion?
    • How did we use our voices?
  • How did we portray different punctuation marks?
  • Where might we find punctuation marks?
  • What might the punctuation marks tell us as we read?
  • Why is it important for us to be able to use and understand punctuation marks when reading?