Using blocks to play with punctuation

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Love people. Cook them. Tasty food!

People love tasty food. Cook them!

Love people. Cook them tasty food!

Why do we teach grammar? Are we teaching our students that there is power in punctuation? I often wonder what would happen if we allowed our students to play with punctuation. I mean really play with it. Play with physical blocks and use them to build towering sentences with colorful words and phrases. I wonder what would happen if we could unlock for students this little gem; You can make people get excited or be amused. You can make them understand or remain confused, by carefully choosing words, phrases, clauses and punctuation.

As a classroom  teacher I would often hear students say ” Why do we need to do this?” Sometimes I had an answer, and if I was frustrated enough that answer would be, ” because if you don’t you will fail!”  Yes, I have had a few bad teaching moments. The truth is, even my non – frustrated answers were probably not the best either. I would tell students that they would learn to become a better writer, or that it was important to know how to speak. I have told students that they will need to know correct grammar and punctuation as they go through school and write papers.

While  all of these things are true,  these reasons matter to the student who is already extremely motivated. It matters to the student who wants to do well in school and in life. It matters to the student who doesn’t want to fail. It matters to the student that does care about their education, and might  even secretly be fascinated with words. That’s great! It’s great that the motivation is there no matter what the reason.  But language is more than just textbooks and worksheets. Its more than just college essays and great scores on standardized test.  Language is power. It is a tool that has been used to control, manipulate and evoke emotion in people for centuries.

Lego Blocks are inexpensive and help students of all ages  to see how you can play with words. When you consider  that you can use an expo marker to write on them, and then erase and reuse, its not a bad investment! Use Lego blocks to have your students write  sentences and then see how many ways they can switch up the blocks with words on them to make new sentences.  Focus on the change in meaning, when simple things like punctuation are changed (see above  examples).

When we approach grammar and language as  powerful tools to be revered and cherished, instruments that we use to play heartstrings, provoke thought, and even create laughter, we can teach students something new. We can teach them to love the power that they have when they are masters of language.

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