I started reading Dan Feigelson’s Book Practical Punctuation: Lessons on Rule Making and Rule Breaking in Elementary Writing yesterday. It’s the first time I’ve sat down and read a book on grammar and actually stayed awake. Seriously! Every other book I’ve read on teaching kids how to punctuate, use conventions properly, etc. has made my eyes close. BUT NOT FEIGELSON’S BOOK!
Aside from Feigelson’s tone, which is like a caring colleague, there are a few things I really like about his book. First, he asserts that punctuation is a crafting tool, not an editing tool. (I agree with that since I’m constantly thinking about the types of punctuation marks I should use when I blog as I’m blogging rather than when I’m editing a blog post.) Second, meaning is at the heart of everything Feigelson writes about. In fact on page 3 he asserts that “Writers use punctuation to get a message across to the reader in a particular way.” Ahhhh! This resonated with me because it reflects my belief that punctuation helps a reader understand what it is we’re trying to get across to him/her, thereby deepening the reader’s experience. The third thing I like about this book is the way the chapters are created. They include a series of lessons, with ideas for conferring and share sessions, without feeling scripty. Additionally, each chapter ends with a reference guide. (For instance, Chapter 2 gives teachers more information about ending punctuation: what’s right and what’s wrong. I learned the difference, from this part, about when to use three vs. four ellipses. It’s nice to learn something about punctuation so that I, too, can become a better writer along the way.) Finally, there’s a proposed school-wide scope and sequence for teaching mechanics from Kindergarten – Fifth Grade at the back of his book. This serves as an excellent frame of reference when trying to decide what to expect kids to do in all stages of the writing process from grade-to-grade.
Do pick this book up if you’re looking to enhance the way you teach punctuation within the context of your Writing Workshop. This is going to be one of those leave-it-on-the-desk books for me, rather than a put-it-on-the-bookshelf text.
Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.