Using full stops and capital letters to demarcate sentences is a requirement of the 2014 National Curriculum from Y1 onward. The following activities have been devised by teachers for working with the youngest children in school but they may still be useful to teachers working with older children who continue to struggle with demarcating sentences accurately.
Use strips of paper to create human sentences with children. Say a sentence, write the sentence, cut-up the sentence and then give separate words to different children so that they can then work collaboratively to recreate the sentence. Use the capital letter and full stop as clues to work out where different words go in the sentence. Over time this game can be repeated with the omission of the capital letter and full stop for children so that children can activate their own understanding to punctuate the sentence accurately.
Tennis ball full stop
Use a tennis ball or other small ball to mark the end of the sentence when building human sentences as a class.
Create actions and sound effects for full stops. Use these actions and sound effects when reading text as a class. Encourage children to use them to decide which punctuation marks to use when reading unpunctuated sentences.
Use yes/no cards so that children can indicate whether examples are correctly punctuated or not.
Provide children with punctuation fans (see our resources page for free to download printable fans). Ask children to find the correct punctuation sign and show it to you as you write sentences on the board.
Caps, gaps and stops
Use the phrase ‘remember the caps, gaps and stops’ (capital letters, gaps [spaces] and full stops) with the children before starting all written work. This becomes a simple success criterion that they can then use to self and peer assess. Create bookmarks/target cards with the prompt ‘Caps, Gaps and Stops’ for children to keep in their trays.
Capitals for names
Read books with lots of character names; Hairy McClary is a good example. What do children notice about how the names are punctuated? Children could then write sentences, captions or labels (depending on their ability) based on pictures of the characters. Make sure they punctuate these accurately!
Introducing the personal pronoun ‘I’
Whether writing sentences, captions or labels about themselves, provide Y1 children with opportunities to use the personal pronoun ‘I’ e.g. ”I am Sarah.”, “I am a girl.” etc.
Create a mnemonic for ‘I’
Ask children to stand up straight and be proud of themselves. This is what ‘I’ looks like: a proud you with you feet on the ground and a line on your head. Use it everytime you talk about yourself in writing.
Capitals for the pronoun ‘I’
Play a ‘take a card game’ so that different pairs of children have different questions such as ‘How old are you?’ ‘What games do you like to play?’ Children need to start their responses with ‘I’ and give these orally. You can then model writing these using a capital letter for the pronoun I. You could extend this game so that the pairs have to work on a response starting with their partner’s response and then theirs e.g. Sarah likes skipping and I like playing chase. By doing this you can ensure that the ‘I’ comes in the middle of the sentence.
Rachel Clarke: Director – Primary English Education
If you liked this post, try Quick tips for Grammar: inverted commas.
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