And I Quote: A Punctuation Proofreading Minilesson

9 - 12
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
One 50-minute session
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This lesson plan reviews the basic conventions for using quotations from works of literature or references from a research project, focusing on accurate punctuation and page layout. Students first discuss general proofreading strategies and the importance of checking quotations in their written work. They examine several passages and draw conclusions about the use of punctuation marks, including when various types of punctuation (comma, period, semicolons, colons, question marks, and exclamation points) go inside or outside quotation marks or after parenthetical citations. Students mark all the ending quotation marks on example passages and then check for correct punctuation, identifying which rules were used. Students are then asked to use this proofreading strategy on their own papers.

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From Theory to Practice

Constance Weaver argues in Grammar for Teachers (1979), "There seems to be little value in marking students' papers with ‘corrections,' little value in teaching the conventions of mechanics apart from actual writing, and even less value in teaching grammar in order to instill these conventions" (64). Instead, learning about grammar, conventions, and text structures is most effective when  student writers "learn through language." Contextualized in the students' own writing and their need to communicate with their readers, self-editing activities such as the strategy taught in this mini-lesson allow students not only to learn through language but to learn through their own language.

Further Reading

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.

Materials and Technology

  • General rules on using quotation marks

  • Student-selected original writing drafts, ready for proofreading




  1. Be sure to discuss documentation and integration of quotations separately. This minilesson is solely a proofreading minilesson.

  2. Before this lesson, students will have written a text of some sort that includes quotations from a work of literature. For instance, the text might be a book report or a literary analysis essay.

  3. Note that in order to avoid confusion with the citations for the quotations included in the Comparison Passages, only the Teacher's Copy includes documentation for the quotations. Similarly, see the Teacher's Copy of the Example Passages for documentation.

  4. Arrange for students to have their textbooks on hand, or provide the conventions on an overhead or on the board. Alternately, you could use the online sheet, Using Quotation Marks from the Purdue OWL.

  5. Make copies and/or overhead transparencies of the Comparison Passages, Quotation Marks Cheat Sheet, and Example Passages.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • explore conventions for using quotation marks and other punctuation marks in sample texts.

  • examine their own writing closely using a self-editing activity.

  • update and revise their writing based on their observations.

Instruction & Activities

  1. Use the Proofreading Website to discuss general proofreading strategies and focus class attention. Use as much detail as appropriate for the class.

  2. Turn attention to the importance of checking quotations in papers that use quotations from outside resources, tying to issues of using correct documentation and avoiding plagiarism.

  3. Pass out copies or display an overhead of the Quotation Marks Comparison Passages for the class to review.

  4. Ask students to look over the passages and note similarities and differences among the ways that quotation marks are used with other kinds of punctuation in the two columns. If students need help, point out features and ask them to draw conclusions. Jot their responses on the board.

  5. Read through the observations, and then turn to general rules on using quotation marks with other punctuation marks from the class textbook or Using Quotation Marks from the Purdue OWL.

  6. Display a copy of the Quotation Marks Cheat Sheet on the overhead projector or using an LCD projector. If desired, pass out copies of the chart as well.

  7. Ask students to draw conclusions about the use of punctuation marks based on the Comparison Passages and the general rules on using quotation marks. Add student observations to the Cheat Sheet using brief descriptions.

  8. Review the Cheat Sheet briefly and then read an overhead or computer-projected copy of Example Literary Analysis Passages with your class. Alternatively, you can use a student example (with the student's permission, of course).

  9. Using the details on the Cheat Sheet, work through the example text to demonstrate how to punctuate the sentences.

  10. Begin by going through the Example Passages backwards (that is, from the last word of the text to the first), and underline or circle all the ending quotation marks.

  11. Once the text is marked, go through the text again, this time checking the other punctuation near the quotation marks. Have students check the details on the Cheat Sheet and identify the rules that each passage demonstrates.

  12. For homework or in time remaining, ask students to use the proofreading strategy on a paper of their own, examining and revisioning punctuation as necessary.

  13. If desired, when polished drafts are collected, ask students to submit a draft that shows their application of the punctuation proofreading strategy.


Student Assessment / Reflections

Kidwatching provides the perfect assessment for this activity. As students apply the strategy to their own writing, note which students understand the concepts and which need more practice. Provide on-the-spot help for any students who need more examples or instruction. For a simple check on completion, compare polished drafts to an earlier draft that includes circled quotation marks.


More formal assessment of the use of final punctuation marks with quotation marks works best as a part of the assessment of the paper itself, rather than as an assessment of this proofreading strategy.

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