story by Rolli , illustrated by Anna Bron

Learning intention:

I am learning to identify when commas are used to separate clauses so that I can correctly use commas in my own writing.


Success criteria:

  • I can identify the difference between dependent and independent clauses.
  • I can write a rule explaining when commas are used to separate clauses.
  • I can use commas correctly to separate clauses in my writing.


Read the text and discuss students’ thoughts and opinions on the story. Explain that students will be studying specific sentences from the text that contain clauses. Write or display the following on the board:

An independent clause stands on its own as a sentence (with a subject and a verb).

A dependent clause cannot stand on its own as a sentence.


If you have a digital subscription, complete the interactive activity, Clauses.


Display the following sentences from the text on the board:

  1. Though she lived alone, she wasn’t lonely.
  2. Everywhere one looked, there were flowers.
  3. And while the scent of the flowers was never strong enough to overpower that of the rubbish, it did help a little.
  4. As Madame sat drinking, Purr Fumé jumped onto her lap.


Explain that each of the four sentences contains a dependent clause and an independent clause separated by a comma. Use the first sentence as an example and ask students which clause is independent (can stand alone as a sentence). Ensure students understand that “Though she lived alone” cannot stand as a sentence. It depends on the second clause therefore it is the dependent sentence. “She wasn’t lonely” is the independent sentence.

Note: Students might ask about the verb in “She wasn’t lonely”. This can be explained by defining auxiliary verbs, or helping verbs (e.g., am, were, is, was). A list of auxiliary verbs can be found on the NSW Education Department’s webpage Verbs.


Students work in pairs to separate the last three sentences into dependent clauses and independent clauses. They can colour code the clauses or put them into columns.


Ask students what they notice about their discoveries and instruct them to write a grammar rule explaining where to put the comma.


A sample answer is below:

Dependent Clause Independent Clause
Everywhere one looked there were flowers
and while the scent of the flowers was never strong enough to overpower that of the rubbish it did help a little.
As Madame sat drinking Purr Fumé  jumped onto her lap.

Rule: When a dependent clause comes before an independent clause in a sentence, it needs a comma to separate the clauses.

Once students have finished, have them reread the text to see if they can identify further examples of this in the mentor text and then write three to five of their own sentences using their rule