I always feel a sense of pride when my students prove they can use this punctuation mark accurately. I think they do too. Here are some teaching ideas to help take the fear out of this pesky but powerful punctuation mark:
- Scatter a wide range of independent clauses around the room. Alternatively you could ask your students to do to this in a snowball fight style for a minimum preparation but more chaotic and fun approach! It is then up to the students to find two clauses from around the room which could be linked using a semicolon. When they have found two they think would work they bring them to you and are then awarded a semicolon. The member of the class with the highest number of semicolons at the end wins. This is a silly and chaotic activity which works well with the right class. It really helps them to remember that clauses linked by a semi colon have to be closely related.
- Ask students to write a semicolon on one side of a mini whiteboard and a colon on the other. This works just as well on a piece of paper. You could even assign some actions for each if you want it to become more lively. Display a range of sentences on the board and the students must hold up the punctuation mark they think should be used in the sentence. This is a great AFL activity and a quick check on their knowledge. Extend the learning by exploring incorrect responses with the class.
- Ask students to gather information from at least four of their classmates about their hobbies. When they return to their desk they must write down their findings making use of semicolons in their list. This could be modelled on the board first if the students need support.
- Ask students to prove to you that they understand how to use semicolons. This can be done in any format they like – a piece of writing, a video, a podcast, a poster or a quiz. I’ve even had a semicolon song before now! You could give prizes for the most effort, the most creative, the most useful for the rest of the class etc.
- Finally, you could use my video and quiz as a starter activity!