story by Angie Schiavone , illustrated by Anna Bron

Learning intention: 

I am learning to use knowledge of sentence structure, grammar and punctuation so that I can compose cohesive texts. 

Success criteria: 

  • I can identify different uses of commas in a text. 
  • I can use commas to compose a cohesive text. 

Essential Knowledge: 

  • Information on sentence structure can be found on the NSW Department of Education page Sentence Structure.
  • Information on commas can be found on the NSW Department of Education page Commas (Including a starter activities handout under Activity Two). There is also a Rules Worksheet under Activity Four, which can be used as a complementary activity to the learning resource below.


After reading the story as a class, separate students into groups of five. Assign each student a page number from the story and have them hunt through the text, making note of every comma.  

Once complete, groups use the text to come up with rules for when to use commas, giving examples from the text. For example, the second sentence of the story is 

The whole clan,(1) stretching right up to the oldest,(2) highest,(3) most bendy 

branches of the family tree,(4) was made up of dropouts,(5) layabouts,(6) peter pikers 

and shoulder shruggers. 

Students might look at commas 1 and 4 and identify that including extra information (non-essential clauses/appositives) within a sentence requires a comma. Commas 2, 3, 5 and 6 are for lists, which also includes items in a series. 

Other answers include: 

  • For dialogue e.g. ‘Yes,’ her husband agreed. 
  • To separate clauses e.g., Mr and Mrs Quitzgibbon weren’t sure it was a great idea, but they agreed to pay the entry fee. 
  • After an introductory clause e.g. Soon after they married, the couple had a daughter and named her O. 
  • After a connective to start a sentence e.g. Well, I can’t really think of anything to wish for… 

Once groups have completed their list, have a speaker from each group share their answers with the class, discussing and compiling answers into one list on the board. 

Individually, students draft a short story either about Mr Quitzgibbon trying to cook again or Mrs Quitzgibbon taking up cycling, using varying sentence structures that require different uses of commas. Students can colour-code their commas to demonstrate their purposes. For example: 

  • Blue commas for lists/items in a series 
  • Red commas for appositives/non-essential clauses 
  • Purple commas to separate clauses 
  • Orange commas after an introductory clause 
  • Green commas after sentences starting with connectives