Teaching about sentence-level punctuation


Why is it important to know about sentence-level punctuation?

At KS3, even competent writers are still making errors in their punctuation of sentences, and pupils will need to be reminded regularly of the principles and the common types of error. You will need a full understanding of both to be able to intervene successfully, whether with the whole class or with individual pupils.

The National Curriculum for English at KS 3& 4 says:

Punctuation

Pupils should be taught to use the full range of punctuation marks correctly to signal sentence structure, and to help the reader.

The Key Stage 3 National Strategy Framework for teaching English: Years 7, 8 and 9 contains the following objectives:

Year 7: Sentence level

Sentence Construction and Punctuation

Pupils should be taught to:

3. use punctuation to clarify meaning, particularly at the boundaries between sentences and clauses;

7. use speech punctuation accurately to integrate speech into larger sentences.

Year 8: Sentence level

Sentence Construction & Punctuation

Pupils should be taught to:

1. combine clauses into complex sentences, using the comma effectively as a boundary signpost and checking for fluency and clarity;

3. make good use of the full range of punctuation, including colons and semi-colons.

Year 9: Sentence level

Sentence Construction & Punctuation

Pupils should be taught to:

2. use the full range of punctuation to clarify and emphasise meaning for a reader;

4. integrate speech, reference and quotation effectively into what they write.

Pupilsí strengths and weaknesses

Strengths

  • Most pupils mark sentence boundaries correctly in most sentences.
  • Most pupils use commas correctly in lists.

Weaknesses

  • Almost all KS3 pupils fail to mark some sentence boundaries correctly; weaker pupils tend to use no punctuation at all, while stronger pupils tend to use comma splices.
  • Almost all pupils omit commas at some clause boundaries.
  • Very few pupils use either colons or semi-colons.

An example of KS3 writing

The following extract from a typical KS3 text illustrates some of these strengths and weaknesses.

My mum has just one fault she won't take me to the 'Boro' matches so me and my dad go instead. She always says 'you should like modelling better than football that always makes me laugh and I will always remember her saying that.

The correct sentence-level punctuation marks are picked out below in green and the incorrect or missing ones in red.

My mum has just one fault. She won't take me to the 'Boro' matches so me and my dad go instead. She always says 'You should like modelling better than football'. That always makes me laugh and I will always remember her saying that.