The Exclamation Point
40 minute lesson – 9th grade class
Rational: Many students can identify an exclamation point and explain that it is used to express intensity in emotion, yet, very few of them use them properly, if at all. This lesson not only focuses on signifying how an exclamation point changes the meaning of a sentence (as opposed to a period or question mark) but it highlights ways to use it effectively, and explores situations where it should be avoided.
· W9.1.3 – Analyze data and facts to communicate information
· W9.1.6 – Apply new information in different context and situations
· W9.4.1 – Share the writing process with peers and adults
· W9.4.3 – Share personal reactions to observations
Skills: 6 Traits
o Punctuation is accurate and guides the reader through the text
o The tone and voice give flavor to the message
o Relevant, telling, quality details give the reader important information
Understanding by Design
Students will UNDERSTAND that…
-the exclamation point serves a purpose
^it is to be used to achieve the effect of emphasis and excitement
-exclamation points can be misused or overused
-punctuation changes the meaning of any given sentence/statement
Forms of Assessment
· Class Discussion
o Based on how the students answer the questions I pose to them, as well as how their own conversations generate new topics, I can gauge their understanding of the lesson and, if need be, facilitate their understanding with a new approach.
· Group Work
o As the students interact with one another, they will share their understanding of the lesson with their peers. Additionally, I will walk around and listen in on their conversations, as well as monitor their written work, to gain a better awareness of what the students are learning.
· Paragraph Activity
o I will collect each groups (4) paragraph and see what they filled and which sentences they highlighted as deserving exclamation marks.
9:00 – 9:05
Have GIANT exclamation point drawn on the board – Full Class Discussion
I will pose questions to the whole class, and call on students whose hands are raised to provide the answer. If they are answering correctly, I will guide the discussion away from “what” it is and focus more on “why” it’s used.
Ask the students:
-What do you see on the board?
-What does it mean?
-Where have you seen it used?
-What purpose does it serve?
-How is it different from other forms of punctuation?
-What are the other forms of ending sentence punctuation?
9:05 – 9:15
The following sentences will be written on the board:
The book is great.
The book is great?
The book is great!
I will call on volunteers to read each of the sentences, asking them to overemphasis the statement with the inflection of their voice. If they don’t seem to get this, I will facilitate by “acting out” the meaning while at the front of the class.
Example: while I read “The book is great?” I will purposely ask it in the form of a question, accompanied by shrugging my shoulders and furrowing my brow.
After the sentences are read, the students will turn to a partner and discuss how the sentences are different. What context would they be used in? What type of inflection would be used when reading the sentence and how does it change the sentences meaning?
Come back as a whole class – ask for a few share outs about what was discussed in pairs.
Ultimately, I want them to be able to communicate the fact that punctuation marks affect the meaning of any given statement. Asking a question is different than stating a point. In terms of the exclamation point, I want them to be able to express the enthusiasm behind it.
On the overhead projector, the following statement will appear.
Quote from Zinsser – “Don’t use it unless to achieve a certain effect”
As a class, we will openly discuss what it means to “achieve a certain effect”. Students will either raise their hands to be called on or provide examples voluntarily. The discussion is meant to address the fact that not all statements are exciting enough to warrant an exclamation point.
PLAY SEINFELD CLIP
Elaine and the Exclamation Point
Once the clip is over, I will return to the overhead projector, and under the original Zinsser quote, I will add the following.
“Construct your sentence so that the order of the words will put the emphasis where you want it”
Again, as a class, we will compare Elaine’s reasoning for exclamation point and how that relates to the above statement.
Now, on the overhead projector, the following will be written:
When NOT to use an Exclamation Point!
-in use of joke
Before we transition to the activity, I will remind the class, yet again, that an exclamation point, as Zinsser pointed out, is only to be used to achieve a certain effect.
Hand out a paragraph where all sentences end with “!”
Read aloud with FEELING! as a class
A volunteer, or volunteers, will practically shout each sentence, using the tone of their voices to project the emphasis intended by the exclamation point.
-Discuss how annoying/overwhelming/unnecessary that was
This will help to bridge the lesson, referring back to the Zinsser piece, demonstrating that the overuse of exclamation points is annoying.
Divide the class into groups (depending on attendance, 4 per group)
Pass out sample paragraph – the same as read before – with NO punctuation
*sentences will be numbered
-as a group, with a recorder selected, the students will fill in the blanks with, what they deem to be, the correct punctuation marks.
As the students are in their groups, I will walk around to gauge their understanding of the assignment. I will make sure they are not putting in too many exclamation marks, as well as ensuring they are not eliminating all of them as well.
Towards the end of the activity, I will ask the recorder to identify which sentences their group determined deserved an “!”
-take note – highlight, underlie, etc. – which sentences did your group added “!” to.
Come back together as a class
-Each group will share what sentences they ended with “!”
Still sitting in their groups, I will ask the recorder to share with the class which sentences they added an exclamation mark to. On the board, under Group 1, Group 2, Group 3, and Group 4 I will record the numbers. This serves not only to document the students’ work, but it also provides a visual reference for the other groups to check their work (against their peers).
I will have done this exercise myself, and have a key with me to look at. I will see if the sentences recorded on the board match up with what I myself had marked.
This serves as a form of assessment, so that I can compared my answers with the students’.
I will show the students how the sentence actually appears in the novel, projecting it on the overhead.
-what kinds of statements warranted an “!”
-how could you determine what types of statements should be emphasized
-what role did dialogue play in these results
-is the novel correct? are your interpretations wrong?
-refer back to Zinsser; remind students how not to overuse the exclamation mark by using it only to achieve a certain (desired) affect.
-note its importance in dialogue, and how it emphasizes emotion
-be able to self-monitor emotions; what is important to you may not be important to others, but can still be conveyed in writing (Seinfeld clip)