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Lesson Plan

Semicolons and Swift: Analyzing Punctuation and Meaning

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Semicolons and Swift: Analyzing Punctuation and Meaning

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Two 60-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Deborah Dean

Deborah Dean

Provo, Utah


International Literacy Association



From Theory to Practice



In this lesson, students identify and categorize different ways Jonathan Swift and those who have edited his text since its initial publication used semicolons in the essay "A Modest Proposal." They compare these uses with rules for semicolon use as indicated in online guides, theorizing about uses that do not follow the rules. Following this analysis and theorizing, students use what they learn about punctuation and its influence on meaning to write insightfully about their findings, using semicolons as they do so.

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Dean, D. (2007). Bringing Grammar to Life. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

  • Reading and writing can be improved through an understanding of punctuation and grammar.

  • Students learn most effectively about language in the context of their reading and writing. Inductive and active contextualized learning provides students with the ability to transfer learning about language (e.g., usage, punctuation) to other reading and writing situations.

  • Working together with other students allows students to use language and to theorize about its rules and practices.


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