Children's writing is usually packed with exclamations, warnings and jokes, but most children don't start using punctuation to indicate expression until they are in Key Stage 2. Rhymes, stories and games are fun ways to introduce young children to the concept of the exclamation mark and when it is appropriate for them to use it.
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Songs and rhymes are effective teaching tools for children, as they are fun to learn and easy to remember. The California-based website, Can Teach, contains some charming poems and songs about punctuation and parts of speech, including the exclamation mark. If you don't want to borrow someone else's, you could always write your own.
"Exclamation Mark!" by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld is on the face of it a short, funny story about being different and learning to be happy with yourself. But it is also a clever way to teach young children about what the exclamation mark means and when to use it. Stories are a good way to teach because they stick in the mind, especially when they are accompanied by illustrations as witty as those in this book.
Through acting it out
It is often a good idea to teach exclamation marks and question marks together. Write out some brief sentences and get the class to decide if they should be completed with exclamation marks or question marks. Then get them to read the sentences out loud, really exaggerating the emotion expressed by the punctuation. Divide the children into pairs and get them to write, punctuate and act our their own sentences.
This exercise tests the teacher's acting skills. Divide the class into two teams. Read out list of sentences with exaggerated emotions -- some could be questions, some exclamations and some statements. Both teams have to decide how to punctuate the sentences according to how you have read them. The team that gets the most right wins.
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