Reading Punctuation Marks: Mini Lesson for Primary Grades on Reading with Expression

Hearing good literature is such an effective way to help children increase their ability to read fluently and expressively. Use popular picture books along with this lesson to help your primary students learn punctuation marks and become better readers.


This is a sample of a mini lesson that you can use again and again by changing the passage that you use and shifting the focus. You can use at the beginning of a guided reading lesson, literacy stations or readers’ workshop.

Choose a short passage from a children’s picture book that contains interesting punctuation. Photocopy the passage onto an overhead transparency.

To begin the lesson, tell the class that you have part of a book that you want to read to them. Read the passage in flat voice, ignoring any punctuation. Ask the children what they think of your reading. They will most likely be quick to tell you that it sounded boring or all ran together and was hard to understand. Agree with them and tell them that you have been hearing some reading that sounds like that in class sometimes.

Then place the transparency on the overhead projector so that everyone can see it. If this is first time you have taught a lesson like this point out the punctuation and say something like, “These marks, periods, commas and questions marks, are the author’s way of telling us how we should sound when we read.” Point out some of the punctuation and what it means. Then model reading the passage again with expression.

Next read smaller chunks of the passage and have the children repeat it to practice. Before you send the students to read or do their literacy stations encourage them to really use the punctuation to help them when they are reading. Monitor their reading practice during their independent reading time. Listen for students who are reading the punctuation and let one or two read from their own books if time allows.


Here are a few ways to vary the lesson so it isn't the same every time.

For the focus:

  • a general lesson on reading punctuation to help you read more expressively
  • practicing how to read one type of punctuation like commas, question marks or exclamation points
  • reading dialog

For the guided practice part of the lesson:

  • Have the children pair up and practice reading the passage to a partner.
  • Have the class choral read the passage several times.
  • Have them read it quietly and then let a few children read to the whole class.

Ideas for books to use:

  • Night in the Country by Cynthia Rylant – lots of interesting punctuation
  • Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes – dialog, question marks, exclamation points
  • Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes – commas, exclamation points
  • Armadillo Rodeo by Jan Brett – dialog, commas, question marks
  • Wolf by Becky Bloom – a fun book to introduce the ideas of reading with expression to young children

Use these ideas for mini lessons for reading punctuation along with other reading lessons for improving fluency to motivate young children to be more fluent and expressive readers.