ReadWriteThink couldn't publish all of this great content without literacy experts to write and review for us. If you've got lessons plans, videos, activities, or other ideas you'd like to contribute, we'd love to hear from you.
Find the latest in professional publications, learn new techniques and strategies, and find out how you can connect with other literacy professionals.
Teacher Resources by Grade
|1st - 2nd||3rd - 4th|
|5th - 6th||7th - 8th|
|9th - 10th||11th - 12th|
Every Punctuation Mark Matters: A Minilesson on Semicolons
|Grades||6 – 8|
|Lesson Plan Type||Minilesson|
|Estimated Time||50 minutes|
MATERIALS AND TECHNOLOGY
- Grammar Handbook, for reference
- General classroom writing supplies (board, overheads, or chart paper, notebooks and pens/pencils, and so forth)
- Internet access
- Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail"—this text is frequently anthologized, appearing in many student textbooks and readers. The text is also available online; however, because the text is protected by copyright, the definitive copies of the letter are not printable:
- Examples of Dr. King's Use of Semicolons, shorter passages
- Example of Dr. King's Use of Semicolons, longer passage
- Example from Dr. King's Letter with No Semicolons
- "Letter from Birmingham Jail"
- "Letter from Birmingham Jail" (PDF version)
This definitive version of the letter is copyright and cannot be printed.
- "Letter from Birmingham Jail" (image of original)
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project
- Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement
- Students should be assigned to read the "Letter from Birmingham Jail" prior to this class session, so that they are familiar with the text and its contents before they begin this activity. You can make copies of the letter for your students from the Website above, or direct students to the URL for one of the sites to read the text online.
- Ideally, students should be given time to explore the timeline at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project Website, which documents the highlights of Dr. King's life. Be sure to take time to discuss the ideas from the letter and its historical context.
- Consult the "Letter from Birmingham Jail" from the Univeristy of Pennsylvania for background information on the letter.
- Provide paper copies of the text for each student-because students will be looking closely at the text, they should have a copy of the letter that they can mark on (e.g., circle semicolons).
- Make copies of the handouts of the shorter passages and the longer passage as well as the handout of a passage with no semicolons from Dr. King's letter for students. Alternatively, make overheads of these pages and arrange for an overhead projector.
- Check your grammar textbook for information on semicolons, noting the pertinent section or page number on the board for students' reference. Alternatively, you can point students to the Purdue OWL Overview of Punctuation.