1. the Comma
You really don’t have to be an expert writer or a college graduate to be able to punctuate a sentence correctly. Language learners in particular tend to overlook punctuation because they have so many other aspects to focus on and sharpen. Grasping basic punctuation rules, like when to use a comma, will not just serve students well in writing, but also in reading, testing, and believe it or not, speaking. So what is the big deal about this little guy, the comma? Well, it is often overused, misplaced, mistaken and kicked around without much regard as to why! One way to eliminate the confusion is to look at the main job of a comma. A comma is a pause. It is used to slow us down, lets us place emphasis where it needs to go, and allows us to write more complex sentences. With language learners, the best way to introduce punctuation rules is to go slowly and methodically. Introduce one or two points and practice them in all sorts of different ways. Only introduce the next rule or lesson when the previous one has been mastered. The first two rules to introduce regarding the comma are described here.
Rule One: A comma is used to separate a series of three or more words, phrases or clauses Examples: I like to eat pizza, chocolate, apples, and donuts.
We spoke on the phone in the morning, in the evening, and again late at night.
The boys went to the baseball game, the arcade, and then to band practice.
I haven’t traveled to Paris, studied French, or met any French people.
A good way to practice this point is to illustrate series that contain not just words, but also clauses, and phrases. You can do it first on the board and have students come up and place commas where they need to go. Using cards with words on them and having students put the cards in the correct order with punctuation is also a good hands-on puzzle-like activity. Another way to make that more fun is to make the cards larger and have the students physically move themselves (with their cards) around to get into the correct order. It is a great visual activity that will be memorable for everyone!
Rule Two: A comma is used to separate two independent clauses that are joined by conjunctions such as but, and, nor, for, yet, or so. Examples: I would go with you, but I have too much work to do.
He is a great artist, and he loves his work.
I’m still angry with Sue, so I don’t want to see her.
The best and most significant way to introduce this comma rule is to illustrate that you are taking two sentences and combining them with a comma and a conjunction. Doing this at first on the board and then followed by some hands-on practice is a good starting point. Have them write a description of their day with little to no punctuation. Then have them work in pairs to decide where to put commas, periods, and capitalization.
2. The Confuser, the Semicolon
Everyone hates the poor little semicolon. It baffles even us native speakers, and when we do attempt to use, we feel uncertain. So imagine how your language learners feel! The semicolon is also just not used that much. Maybe we prefer to avoid it and find ways around it. The two rules to introduce first are described here.
Rule One: Use a semicolon to combine two very closely related complete sentences. Examples: Don’t go in the water; it is contaminated.
The CEO spoke at the conference; he told us no one would get laid off.
Call me in the morning; I will give you my answer then.
Rule Two: Use a semicolon along with a conjunctive adverb and a comma to clarify the relationship between two closely related complete sentences. Conjunctive adverbs include however, therefore, in addition, moreover, subsequently, consequently, instead, and additionally. Examples: Jane called in sick again today; therefore, the boss is going to let her go.
The bridge is collapsing; however, engineers are working day and night to fix it.
Both of the above rules will take a lot of practice and examples to solidify understanding for students. Use strong examples and then solicit examples from the students to get them involved. Be sure to point out the lack of punctuation after the semicolon, and that both of these rules must contain very closely related subject matter. After you have done lots of examples, give them a passage of writing that has all the punctuation removed from it. Let them work together to add in commas, semicolons, periods and any other punctuation they know. Another good exercise is to have students generate their own sentences with no punctuation and have their partner or the class put in the correct forms. Also, this is the time to pull out the grammar books and give them some drills for homework.
The period is a pretty friendly element and known to most students. You can’t do much reading without figuring it out. You could do activities in which you introduce questions marks, exclamation marks, and periods and test students on determining when each should be used. Because they are so common, often students have a good idea of when to use them. After you have introduced some comma and semicolon rules, it is a great idea to review all types of punctuation by challenging students with cut-up stories, editing paragraphs, or attempting to write an error-free paragraph.
(From the site: Busy Teacher.org)
To use reported speech, we are in one instance having a conversation or overhearing something, and then repeating it or reporting it to a third party. In order to properly report what was said, we have to alter the tenses that were used. Here is a basic explanation:
- If the reporting verb (like said) is in the past, the reported speech will also be in past tense. The form is generally one step back into the past from the original.
- Maria said the exam was difficult.
- George said the food tasted badly.
- Quoted speech that is changed to reported speech changes tense according to this rule: simple past, present perfect, and past perfect all must change to past perfect for reported speech. Present tense sometimes stays as present tense if it is immediately reported, but often changes to past tense if it is reported later.
- Pronouns in quoted speech must also be changed in reported speech. If you are having a conversation with John, and John says, “I am hungry.” It is reported as this: John says he is hungry.
Provide a lot of examples and scenarios throughout the grammar explanation.
|John said, “I live in Memphis.”||John said that he lived in Memphis.|
|Pat said, “I am talking on the phone.”||Pat said she was talking on the phone.|
|Mike said, “I ate dinner late.”||Mike said that he had eaten dinner late.|
|Tina said, “I have never been to Paris.”||Tina said she had never been to Paris.|
|Mary said, “I had already done the dishes.”||Mary said she had already done the dishes.|
|Juan said, “I am going to go to the movies.”||Juan said he was going to go to the movies.|
Another thing to point out about reported speech is that forming questions can be a little tricky. When reporting questions, it is especially important to pay attention to sentence order. When reporting yes /no questions then you can create the reported question using if. When reporting questions using question words (why, where, when) use the question word. Here are some examples:
- Marla asked, "Do you want to drive?" = Marla asked me if I wanted to drive.
- Kiko asked, “Did John go to school?”= Kiko asked if John had gone to school.
- Dave asked, "Where did you put the bag?" = Dave asked me where I had put the bag.
John asked, "What are you studying?" = John asked me what I was studying Triangles And News After some seriously involved explanation, discussion and comprehension checks, it is time to move into practicing this jagged little point. Coming up with fun and engaging ways to practice reported speech will really help students remember what they have learned. This is also a grammar point that requires several lessons of practice and explanation, so don’t feel that you have to pack it all into one day. Start small and build upon a strong foundation. The two best practice activities for reported speech are triangles and news reporting.
This is always an interesting one to set-up and there are a lot of ways in which you can vary it to your needs. You have three students: Student A is talking to student B and Student C will be the third party. Student B’s job will be to listen to student A and turn to student C and report what student A said. You can come up with a number of scenarios if you want to increase the practice and turn the triangles into mini role plays. A good topic is planning a party or outing of some kind. Student A is the organizer and calls student B and C on the phone and reports what the other two students have said. Another fun one is to do a lesson on gossip and use reported speech to show how it is that gossip can travel so quickly, and also how the story will change when the reporters report incorrect information.
This is a good activity to do once the students have gotten some amount of exposure to reported speech. It takes some creativity on the students’ part and again, there are numerous ways in which you could set it up. One way is to have them read a news story and report the news to the class in a newscaster tone. Another way could be to have a reporter doing an interview on a particular topic. For example student A’s house was broken into and student B is the newscaster there to get the story. Student B will then report the story back to the class. Students can do this activity in small or large groups and then report back after practicing. They could also rotate around the room and each pair gets a chance to report and interview on multiple topics while taking turns with their roles.
Reported speech is something we do every day, and your students will have a good time with it after they have waded through all the grammar specifics.
Creating stimulating activities that contain practice they won’t soon forget will soon have your students reporting on your every move!