Take the brakes off punctuation

4th November 2005 at 00:00
I tell my class that every sentence is a bus journey. To start the journey they must start the bus: "Brooom!" - the capital letter going in. We're off. Now they have to collect the passengers as they go - the words. When they finish the journey, I want to hear the brakes screeching: "eeeekkk!" - the full stop. Now they have to check the passengers have survived the journey - ie read the sentence to make sure it makes sense - and a special check to see if the driver is OK. The driver is the verb, the "doing" or "being" word. If everything is fine, they can start the next journey.

It's very motivating; the "Brooms" and "Eeeekkks" all around the room act as a constant reminder to include the capital letter and full stop and do the check at the end. There was a day or two of silliness, but now they just get on with it. Occasionally it goes a little quiet and I have to ask, "Aren't there any buses running today?" before normal service is resumed.

We have had interactive whiteboards installed and this works very well for modelling writing. I start my bus (Brooom!), write my sentence, screech to a halt and then the whiteboard comes into its own. To check the passengers I use the handwriting recognition feature. It's nearly 100 per cent accurate if I write carefully and less so if I don't, so the children help me check whether the computer has correctly identified all the words. If we're all happy with the result... "Brooom!" Next sentence.

I'm already thinking ahead. Commas? A little indicator noise to show a slight change of direction. Question marks? Obviously, a "Beep, Beep" noise. ("What are you playing at?") Exclamation mark? Probably the sound of a little crash! All aboard! Any more fares? Broom, broooom...

Alan Thompson

Year 3 class-teacher, St Nicholas Junior School, Dereham, Norfolk

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