What's all that Chicken Scratch?
Chicken scratch or clues to meaning? When and how do you use quotation marks? When we first began to learn about punctuation we thought it had to be dull, dry and boring. Never one to put up with boring lessons, my daughter taught me to turn this seemingly dull topic into a lively scavenger hunt that all of us looked forward to exploring on a daily basis.
Punctuation can actually be a fun subject to study.
Finding the humor in punctuation
What is that chicken scratch my 4 year old asked one day? I had been trying to explain the proper use of quotation marks to my 12 year old who was becoming bored, frustrated and impatient with my lapse into textbook learning. It wasn't going well to say the least. We needed to find another way. "Chicken Scratch!" Yes, indeed, the quotation marks placed on either side of quotes sure did look like chicken scratch!
Then I started to think about how I had learned punctuation. Sure my teachers had tried to teach it through textbooks and worksheets but I don't think that is actually how I learned it. I remembered a day in fifth grade when my teacher brought out a Bill Cosby record where Bill read a text and replaced each of the punctuation marks with a separate vocalization. It was hilarious!
You can try it yourselves. Pick a short text where there are lots of various punctuation marks. Then agree upon a sound of each of the punctuation marks. Use a finger in your cheek and pop it out to make a period. Make a "crick" sound for a comma and two together for quotation marks. A torpedo coming down to earth with a finger pop at the end is an exclamation mark.
Talk a little about what each of the marks mean and then try reading a text without punctuation. How boring! Finally, pull out the book,The book of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks: A Celebration of Creative Punpunctuation by Bethany Keeley.
Bethany Keeley has compiled a hilarious collection of creative uses for quotation marks.
Punctuation with Victor Borga
Many people remember seeing Victor Borga as he performed punctuation sound effects on TV. Some even saw it in Black and White. In my school we had nether so my teacher brought in a record and played it on the record player. It was hilarious and has stayed in my mind ever since. When I taught my children punctuation YouTube didn't exist but we did our best imitation. You, however, have the privilege of just clicking and viewing the performance:
What's up with that comma?
You can't just read quickly though the book, Eats, Shoots and Leaves! The humor comes from studying the text and illustrations carefully. By moving the comma from one word to another, the meaning is completely changed.
You need to study both the position of the commas as well as what is going on in the illustrations to discover the delightful humor found page after page. This is a wonderful book to read together once your children are reading fairly well.
With highlighter in hand it's time to go on a search for punctuation. Pull out a newspaper and start searching. How many different forms of punctuation can you find.
Turn it into a competition by putting on a timer to see who can find the most punctuation marks in a certain amount of time.
For a long term project, make sure you always have your digital camera in hand. Seek out punctuation errors in restaurants, department stores and car washes. Wherever there is a sign, there is a possible punctuation error. Compile your research into a book to share with friends. It makes a great book for your coffee table or as a conversation starter at a party or family gathering.