Sarah Major, M.Ed. is passionate about working in harmony with a child's immaculate design to support their learning strengths. As a Title 1 Program Director and Designer, Sarah earned awards for creating her own multisensory educational resources that have now been sold in all 50 states and over 150 countries. Sarah’s approach goes beyond verbal explanation, incorporating hands-on activities that utilize right-brained strategies to teach students difficult topics such as using quotations.
When I taught second grade, the majority of my students had a hard time with quotation marks. They were not sure how to use them, when to use them, or how to identify in writing the words that were actually being spoken by someone. I don’t know how much of their difficulty was due to a lack of focus on the content of the text, or if they just needed to be taught quotation marks in a more direct way. My policy is, rather than verbally explaining a new or difficult concept, I use some right-brained strategies to teach. This unit can last a whole week or two if you do all the suggested activities.
What you will need:
- Comic strips from newspapers or online. You will need copies of each strip corresponding to the number of speakers in the comic strip. Preferably, find comics that have super easy words.
- Chart paper and marker.
- Writing paper and pencils.
For each comic strip, write a brief story on your chart paper. Use the same words that are in the dialogue in the comic strip but add surrounding words. Here is a story made from our first comic strip:
Lucy and Charlie Brown were practicing baseball in the field.
“Time out!” Lucy yelled.
“Now what?” Charlie Brown asked as he walked over to Lucy.
Lucy said, “Hey manager, I have a great idea! After we’ve lost a game, why don’t we run an ad in the newspaper?”
“An AD?” Charlie Brown asked.
Lucy tipped her hat back and said, “Sure, we could offer a reward for the lost game.”
Charlie Brown didn’t know what to say so he just stared at Lucy.
“When the lost game was found, it wouldn’t be a lost game anymore,” Lucy explained.
As Lucy walked away she said, “If I get another great idea, I’ll let you know!”
Then Charlie Brown said, “Maybe outfielders spend too much time standing in the sun!”
I. ACT IT OUT
1. Select your first pair or group of actors. If the comic strip you have selected for them has two speakers, you will need two children; if the strip has three speakers, you will need three children. Give each child a copy of the comic strip you have chosen and assign them parts. Let them practice the parts until they are ready. Of course, they don’t have to quote the comic strip exactly!
2. Have the actors read or say the content of the comic strip in front of the class.
II. TRANSITION TO PRINT
3. Share with your students that, in a comic strip, there are little speech bubbles floating around that show what each person says. We don’t have any other words at all, just what each person says.
4. Now direct their attention to the chart paper on which you have written the little story. Read it to them, following the line of text with your finger or pointing stick.
5. Ask the children if they see anything that might signal to the reader what each person is saying. Point out the quotation marks and suggest they are like parts of the speech bubble. “In fact,” (use a marker for this part of the activity) “we can just draw the speech bubbles right in the story!”
6. Tell the children that having full-blown speech bubbles inside a story would be really clunky, so we have replaced them with little cute marks on either side of the words spoken by each person.
II. TAKE IT FURTHER:
7. There are two ways to go from here. One is to give the children a new comic strip and have them turn it into a story like you did on the chart paper. They would use the words from the comic strip, using quotation marks instead of the speech bubbles. The students might enjoy working in pairs on this activity.
8. The second way to take this activity further is to have the children start with a typed story and, working with a partner, turn it into a comic strip that uses speech bubbles. I can see tremendous value in doing both activities 7 and 8.
9. Finally, have the children work with a friend and write an original comic strip/story which they will illustrate AND write in story form. Thus they will practice both quotation marks and speech bubbles. Let them share their work with the class.