Engaging Ways to Teach Basic Punctuation + Free Digital Unit


We’ve all had that student: the one who turns in a final piece of writing made up of one LONG string of words, with absolutely no punctuation marks whatsoever. In fact, we may have even had a whole class of them!

Although we know the lower grade teachers do teach basic punctation, and we assume students should know it by now, the truth is that teaching basic grammar rules like punctuation is something that takes time and LOTS of repetition!

Today I’m sharing a FREE Digital Grammar Lesson for teaching basic punctuation, along with some of my favorite tricks for engaging students as they practice this skill.

Use Direct Instruction to Teach the Basic Rules of Punctation

It’s important to begin by explicitly teaching each of the 8 basic punctation marks and when to use them. This can be done in a brief grammar mini-lesson. Slide 1 of the resource above is intended for direct instruction. Go over the proper use of each mark and review the examples.

How to teach basic punctuation Slide 1 example: rules of each punctuation mark

Students will come into your classroom with varying levels of grammar awareness and ability. You may need to correct the “rules” students think they know, and the best way to do this is by laying a solid foundation as you teach the basic rules of punctuation.

Next, use Slide 2 as a whole group or in pairs, depending on your students’ skill level. Students will look for punctation errors and mark them on the passage. Spend plenty of time discussing each error: you want to make sure students have a strong grasp on how to use each punctuation mark correctly.

How to teach basic punctuation Slide 2 example: discussion questions

Finally, assign Slide 3 for individual practice. As students complete each passage set, you’ll be able to quickly see who has mastered the skill and who needs additional practice. If students are struggling, it’s easy to duplicate this slide and add in your own passages for more practice.

(Check out this post to read more on how I teach grammar skills like basic punctuation using devices. If you need help with assigning the slides or converting the to a Microsoft file, visit our Digital Grammar Toolbox!)

Teach Basic Punctuation During the Writing Process

It’s not always easy to fit in grammar skills during your regular writing block. That’s why I recommend consistently reinforcing the basic punctuation rules as you are working on larger pieces of writing.

There are several ways to do this. For example, I like to make purposeful mistakes during my writing mini-lessons. If my students are struggling with using quotations marks, for instance, I might deliberately leave them out of a piece of dialogue I’m modeling for the class. There’s always a few students who will quickly rush to correct me, and as I’m adding them back in I can say, “I remember the rule for quotation marks: I should use them around the exact words someone says.” It’s a sneaky way to reinforce those skills, and my students are never the wiser!

How to teach basic punctuation during the writing process: image of a teach modelling dialogue

You can also spend time reviewing or reteaching the basic punctation rules during your conferencing time. While students are working on their writing piece, pull a few students that are struggling with commas or apostrophe use. They can even bring their writing piece to use as the text for your group work. Go over a specific rule, and have students look for one place they can apply it or correct it in their story/essay.

Fun Ways to Apply Basic Punctation Rules

After we’ve reviewed the basic rules of punctation marks, I try to fit in a few fun activities that allow students to practice the skills in a new way. Here’s a few of my favorite ones for you to try!

how to teach basic punctuation using magazine searches

Magazine Search

Choose a specific punctation mark for students to focus on. Then let students use magazines to search for examples that use that punctation mark. They can cut them out and glue them onto a posterboard. Once they’ve found several, be sure to discuss the various ways each example uses the rule correctly.

Flipped Learning

Assign groups of 2-3 students to create a brief lesson or game that reviews punctation. They should include definitions, examples, and questions for other students. When they’re ready they can present their lesson to a lower grade level or to small peer group. My students especially love to film their presentations!

Silly Memes

One fun way to start class is by displaying a funny punctation meme. The one below is a classic for a reason—it always cracks my students up! Or find photos that showcase a real-life punctation mistake and ask students how they could correct it.

No matter how you teach basic punctuation, I hope this gives you some great ideas you can incorporate into your grammar routine!

Want more Interactive Digital Grammar Units? I’ve designed several monthly sets that include slides for notes, discussion, practice, and an assessment. Or purchase my growing year-long Grammar Bundle!

Related Resources


April Smith

Curriculum Writer and Online Professional Development Coach. 


Join my email list to get this guide and additional free online training & resources throughout the year.

Grade Level




Escape Challenges





Test Prep