Well, it is that time of year again. My kids are off to school, and I am excited to begin writing a brand new book. I will be creating the book through this blog, and you will have free access to all of it’s content here. This book/blog series is called Seven Habits of Highly Effective Readers and will give you information on what you can do to create an avid reader.
Closely related to expression is punctuation. Punctuation is like the traffic signals of reading. If you skip a period or a comma all of a sudden things begin to not make sense and you become lost in your reading.
Highly effective readers sound so good when they are reading because they pay attention to the punctuation. They understand that they need to come to a full stop when they see a period and that they need to stop quickly for a comma. They also make their voice go up at the end when they see a period and use emphasis when there is an exclamation point.
Kids who are not highly effective readers do not always know to do this. They read past the period and then begin taking breaths where there is no punctuation. Then all of a sudden things begin to slowly not make any sense. So the reader trudges on because they know they are required to keep reading. They are not able to visualize what is happening, and they become bored very quickly and would rather pick up their xbox game than make their brain do so much work.
Here is an easy way to teach kids that are struggling with punctuation to pay attention to it. Either in a book or a copied page from a book, have the child put two slashes (//) over all of the periods and one slash (/) over the commas. Then have the child put an arrow going up over the question mark and a star over the exclamation points. Here is what each of these marks represents.
// = knock two times
/ = knock one time
↑ = make your voice go up at the end
* = excitement
After the child has marked up the page, have her read it. When she comes to the // she needs to physically knock on a table two times. When she comes to /, then she needs to knock just one time. This slowly begins training the reader to pay attention to what they are reading.
Often kids who do not read punctuation correctly will put punctuation marks where they do not belong. For example, the most typical place a child will add a period is at the end of a line. In simpler easy text, books are written with periods at the end of the line. However, as a text becomes more complicated kids need to learn to go from one line to the next without adding a pause. Adding a pause at the end of the line will cause comprehension issues for readers. It is amazing how just one little pause can make the difference, but it truly does.
Another thing that you can do, without marking up the text is to just ask the reader to read the sentence again and stop appropriately at the punctuation. Sometimes I will pose questions like, “What do we do at a period.” Then the reader says, “Stop.” Then I say, “Great, try it again.” This a non-threatening way to begin getting kids to stop appropriately. Some kids respond better to one way than another way. So, it is always good to have a couple of tricks in the bag that you can use. If one way doesn’t work so well, then you can try a different way.
Have you ever heard a reader read without stopping appropriately at the punctuation? How do you think this affected their reading?