Quotation Marks and Punctuation Lesson Plan: Comma Use With Quotations

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I taught students with fun lesson plans for reading and language arts. I taught them independent reading strategies. I taught students how to use commas and semicolons. I felt good. Then I read their narrative essays and unleashed a banshi-like scream of regret. I had failed to teach my students the importance of quotation marks and punctuation. If this sounds like you, take advantage of my bad experience and use the following lesson plan to make sure your students know how to punctuate properly.

Rules: Quotation Marks and Punctuation

  • Use quotation marks at the beginning and end of a direct quotation. Do not use them, however, to set off an indirect quotation.
    • Bob said, “I doubled my money in the stock market last month!"
    • Bob lied about doubling his money in the stock market last month.
  • Punctuate a speaker’s words with a comma, question mark, or exclamation point inside the quotation.
    • Bob cried, “I’m ruined!"
    • Bob wondered, “Am I ruined?"
    • “I’m happier than Lenny at a petting zoo,” Bob’s enemy said.
  • Place a comma after explanatory words (he said, for example)
  • In dialogue, begin a new paragraph each time the speaker changes and use a separate set of quotation marks.
  • Use single quotation marks when using quotation marks inside of quotation marks.
    • He said, “I know she said, ‘Let’s go to the Dominican Republic, this summer,’ but I’d rather go to Hawaii."
  • Put a colon or semicolon outside the closing quotation mark
    • Here are things “not to do”: thing 1, thing 2, thing 3.
  • If a sentence that includes a quotation is a question or exclamation, place the question mark or exclamation point outside the quotation marks.
    • Are you familiar with “The Road Not Taken”?

Procedures and Assessment

  • Before discussing quotation marks and punctuation, assign students to write a page of straight dialogue for three different scenes: this is most effective when using a piece of literature you’re currently reading.
  • Review rules for punctuating quotations and dialogue.
  • Instruct students to rewrite the dialogue into a prose story.
  • Assessment should be based on technical aspects of punctuating quotations.
  • For lesson plans on writing effective dialogue or creating good dialogue, try one of these lessons.

Your Dreams Come True

Looking for a standards based syllabus for high school language arts? Click the link and find all the resources–lesson plans, unit plans, handouts, powerpoints–you need for an entire semester at brighthub.com.

This post is part of the series: Mechanics

Use a little creativity and watch your students' writing mechanics improve.

  1. Lesson Plan: How to Use Commas Correctly
  2. Lesson Plan: Using Semicolons
  3. Lesson Plan: Quotation Marks and Punctuation
  4. Lesson Plan: When to Use a Hyphen
  5. The Tragedy of MIsused Apostrophes
  6. Teach Your Class How to Use Parentheses (It’s Really Easy)