Teaching punctuation has the potential to be dull…fact! Of course, it doesn’t have to be. Here is an idea for a lesson which might help to spice this topic up.
Before You Begin
You will need to prepare the punctuation which will be used as the subsititute for the gold and silver sheets collected in the crystal dome. It takes a bit of time the first time around but you can use it over again once it’s made. I typed into a word document every possible piece of punctuation (font size 48), copied and pasted it lots of times and left a good size gap between each symbol. I then had them laminated and cut them into squares. I ended up with about 200 5cm/5cm cards with a range of punctuation individually printed onto them.
Set the room up so that all of the group tables are placed around the outside. You will need a large space in the centre of your room to become the crystal dome. The more space that you can create for the crystal dome; the more space the pupils will have to move around in.
I organise groups beforehand by looking through their books and noting the types of punctuation pupils found difficult to use or just didn’t use at all. I kept pupils together who had similar needs so that when they came to the investigation, one pupil did not just take over and tell the others how it is done.
If you tell pupils they are about to “enter the crystal dome”, no matter how good an impression of Richard O Brian you pull off, you will be met with blank stares. It is for this reason that I connect pupils’ learning by playing clips of the crystal dome FOUND HERE alongside the question: “What is this place?” Once their curiosity is engaged…let the games begin!
The game begins with one elected member of each group entering ‘the crystal dome’. The representatives have one minute to collect as many of the cards (which you are going to throw up in the air in the centre of the dome at the start of their time) as they possibly can. They are only allowed a short amount of time as too much time will mean that they don’t try hard enough to collect their punctuation squares; you want them to feel the buzz of the challenge.
Give pupils strict rules about having no physical contact with other players to avoid any accidents or cheating. Use a large timer ( Teach It timer works well) and play crystal maze music to them as they begin collecting. You want to create a real competitive buzz so get the other team members to cheer them on too.
Return from the Dome
Pupils will need to return all collected punctuation to their teams for counting. They count all squares of punctuation, including any that they have two or more of. Take note of the final numbers. Make a big deal about how this is a competition and the most punctuation wins. The group with the most will begin to gloat as they don’t know what is about to come.
Once all numbers are recorded, ask groups to organise their punctuation into three piles.
1. Punctuation that I can both use and explain the use of easily
2. Punctuation I use but can’t explain why
3. Punctuation I neither can use nor explain.
It is at this point that you break the news to them that, just as silver sheets did not count in the original Crystal Maze, in our version, only punctuation that they can use and explain counts in our game. Their new score should be placed against their original score so that pupils are able to see the work that they need to do to make up the difference.
Don’t just take their word for it; get pupils to prove that they are able to both use and explain the punctuation that they claim they can. You could use a simple work sheet exercise for this. When the pupils are searching for the meaning of the rest of the punctuation, you will have time to mark this exercise and remove any points that are unjustly awarded if any mistakes are found.
Search for Meaning
Provide pupils with materials that will help them to work out how to use any punctuation that they categorised as either statement 2 or 3. You could provide them with examples of work where punctuation is used well and get them to find out why it is used correctly or provide them with explanations of how to use punctuation types and tasks to get them to apply this understanding.
They should attempt to get all of the punctuation intitally categorised as 2 or 3 to become a 1; this will increase their score as long as they can prove what they have learned…
Before you allow pupils to count up their final totals, they will need to prove what they have learned. At this stage, you want to get an understanding of pupils’ individual understanding rather than rely on a whole group answer. You need to assess what they have learned and keep a record of any important points to inform your next lessons on this topic.
You can simply show the punctuation symbols and ask them to write a sentence on mini whiteboards, in which they demonstrate that they can apply that punctuation correctly. You can clearly see which pupils have made progress and spot any developing misconceptions.
This lesson is all about the competition and pupils’ final review should bring the competition to a close. Pupils will now be able to rearrange their piles and, if progress has been made, there will be more punctuation on their number 1 pile. Take in the final scores and award the winning team with something worthwhile…merits, chocolate…a big well done?
At the end of this lesson, pupils should be able to clearly see the progress that they have made and set targets for improvement.
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