I can investigate the different uses of commas so that I can confidently use commas in the texts that I compose.
- I can identify commas in a text
- I can discuss why the commas have been used
- I can compose a fictitious account of a character
- I can include two examples of uses of commas in my account
- I can identify the reasons why commas have been used in the work of my peers.
Read The Terracotta Army together with the students or listen to the audio file while following along with a copy of the magazine. Emphasise that the article includes a great deal of information, and that this information would be very difficult to understand if it wasn’t broken up into sections. Inform students that one strategy that allows readers to comprehend texts is punctuation such as commas. Do not discuss the different uses of commas at this stage. The goal is for students to investigate this.
Place students in small groups. Allocate each group a page from the article. Tell them that they will be considering the purpose of the commas used in their section. Share a useful strategy for identifying the purpose of the commas, which is to first imagine the sentence under consideration without any commas. Then, tell students, that they should read it again, this time, pausing at the commas to see the purpose the commas serve. Discuss an example with the class,
Have you ever dug in the dirt and found stones, shells or even a hidden treasure?
Remove the commas and discuss how the sentence changes:
Have you ever dug in the dirt and found stones shells or even a hidden treasure?
Ensure students note that the information appears overwhelming without the commas (the stones, shells and the hidden treasure). Discuss the purpose of the commas (to separate information into easily digestible sections) and identify the rule for using commas in this type of example (to separate ideas that appear in a list).
Tell students to complete the following with their group when analysing their allocated page:
- Take turns reading a paragraph aloud
- Identify sentences with commas
- Imagine the sentence without the comma/commas
- Re-read the sentence, pausing at the comma/commas
- Draw conclusions about why the comma/commas have been used.
Once students have had time to investigate the commas in their allocated section, discuss responses. Tell each group to share a sentence that features a comma and to explain the reason why the comma has been used. Sample responses include:
Historians believe that when the emperor ordered the creation of the Terracotta Army, he had it face east, towards the territories he had already conquered. (Commas are used to separate the subordinate clause that appears in the middle of a main clause from the main clause)
But at some point, he realised that a human being could not be immortal in physical form. (A comma is used to separate a subordinate clause from the main clause, where the subordinate clause appears at the beginning of the sentence)
The outer tomb is 6.3 kilometres long, and the whole tomb is 76 metres
tall, in the shape of a mound-like truncated pyramid. (The commas are used to separate ideas that appear in list form)
The largest pit covers about 150 000 square metres, almost as big as three soccer fields. (The comma is used to separate main and subordinate clauses)
There are terracotta soldiers of all ages with different ranks, facial features and hairstyles. (The comma is used to separate items in a list)
Inform students that they will be experimenting with using commas in their own text. Refer back to the article, The Terracotta Army. Discuss the opening paragraph, that details the discovery of the clay fragments by Chinese farmers. Discuss how the farmers may have felt when they realised the importance of their discovery. For example, they might have been excited by the discovery, they might have been intimidated by the magnitude of the importance of their discovery, they might have worried what would have happened if they had smashed the fragments when they were digging. Tell students that they will be writing a fictitious account in character as a farmer, describing how they felt when they made the discovery. Inform students that they should include at least two different uses of commas in the description. Tell them that first you will complete an example together. A sample response is:
It was just a regular day. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and I was out digging with my friends. What we discovered that day was to provide an insight into the past. However, I’ve jumped ahead. So, we were digging and under our spades we saw small pieces of clay. They looked unusual so we contacted the local museum. We discovered the pieces were from the past, from the great Terracotta army, and that they were incredibly meaningful for Chinese history. I had to sit down when they told me that, I can tell you. It sure was a shock, an almighty shock.
Discuss the uses of commas in the account (to separate items in a list, for example, ‘The sun was shining, the birds were singing,’ to separate a subordinate clause that appears before the main clause, for example, ‘However, I’ve jumped ahead’ and to separate a subordinate clause that appears in the middle of a main clause, ‘We discovered the pieces were from the past, from the great Terracotta army, and that they were incredibly meaningful for Chinese history’).
Tell students to work with their group to compose a fictitious account from the point of view of one of the farmers who made the discovery. Remind them to include at least two uses of commas. Once students have completed their accounts tell them to swap with another group. Instruct students to identify the different uses of commas in the work of their peers.