While writing our first story of the year I began conferencing with my students about their writing. One thing jumped out at me in every single composition. They all included dialogue, but not a single one used quotation marks. I knew right away that I needed a plan.
I did a quick mini-lesson on the board which usually sticks with most students.
I draw a comic strip on the board and fill in the boxes with simple pictures. I mean simple, I am not a natural artist and the pictures aren't the important part anyway. Then I add thought bubbles to each pane in the strip with short phrases that the characters could be saying. We talk about how the thought bubble shows what the character is thinking or saying.
Then, I begin to erase the thought bubble until just a little part are left on each side. They should resemble apostrophes.
Finally, we talk about how when somebody has something to say it is important. To show the reader that it is important we double up on the thought bubble "remnants." You can see the progression in the picture below.
This is a super quick mini-lesson and it seems to really stick with students. I think that part of the reason is because most kids enjoy reading comics and it is meeting them somewhere they know.
Now, when a student forgets to use quotation marks I can ask them where the thought bubble would be and they know exactly what to do.
Of course, we need as much practice as we can get with this skill. I have a fun game that is seasonally related to practice quotation marks. Ghosts Say "__"
is an easy game or literacy station that allows students to practice adding quotation marks to incorrect sentences either independently, in partners, or in small groups.
There are two ways to play, and directions are included for either way. Students can either add their quotation marks directly to the sentence card for a quick game, or they can rewrite the entire sentence on the recording sheet as an independent activity or to assess their knowledge.
Since the sentences are only missing quotation marks it allows students to concentrate on the skill at hand.