Quick tips for grammar: using question marks

The 2014 National Curriculum requires children in Y1 to be able to demarcate sentences with full stops, question marks and exclamation marks. By the end of Y2 children need to be able to use these punctuation marks whilst also recognising the sentence types with which they work: statement, question, exclamation and command. In this article I look at ways to introduce question marks in Y1 and Y2 and also how to reinforce their use throughout KS2.


Question words

Create a classroom ‘question display’ with the words why, what, who, where, when etc. on display. Add to this over time with further question words such as ‘how’ and ‘which’, and question phrases (or question stems) such as what is the most…how can I tell…who is the… 

Who am I?

Most of us have played the party game where competitors are required to wear a sticky note on their forehead on which is written the name of a celebrity or famous person. This game adapts well to the classroom where we can choose characters from stories and well-loved films. Support children’s questioning by providing them with question words, or question stems (such as those mentioned above) and model writing their sentences with capital letters, finger-spaces and question marks.

Mystery bag

This is a similar game to the one above, but this time an object is hidden in the mystery bag. Children need to devise questions to work out what is in the bag. Initially this could be done orally with children using the classroom display of question words to help them formulate their questions; next you could consider scribing their questions so that you can reinforce capital letters and question marks; and finally ask children to write their questions on mini-whiteboards so that they can practise writing capital letters and question marks.

Is it a question?

Provide children with yes/no cards or punctuation fans. Display statements and questions on the interactive whiteboard and ask children to you their yes/no cards or punctuation fans to indicate whether it is a question (see our resources page for our downloadable punctuation fans).

Is it a question? PLUS

Sort sentences to decide which are questions. This could be done as a whole class on the Interactive Whiteboard; in pairs with sentences on paper strips or cards; or individually in exercise books. Initially, start with just statements and questions, but over time include exclamations and commands to increase the challenge.

Hot seating

Take the role of a character from a story and ask children to formulate questions they would like to ask that character. Use the classroom display of question words and question stems to help them formulate their questions.

Change it around

Display a statement such as, “The girl is playing cricket” on the interactive whiteboard. Challenge the children to devise the question that may have been asked to elicit the response, e.g. “What is the girl doing?” This activity is also really useful for encouraging children to speak in full sentences.

What do you want to know?

Follow Primary’s board Story Starters on Pinterest.

Provide children with an interesting picture and ask them to explore what they would like to find out about the image, e.g. Where is it taking place? Who can we see in the picture? How did they get there? What do we think happened before/ happens next? Our Story Starters board on Pinterest contains lots of interesting images to support this work. This activity can also be undertaken with the cover artwork from books shared with the class, including in guided reading.

Rachel Clarke: Director – Primary English Education

All content on the Primary English Website is owned by Rachel Clarke and is protected by copyright.

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