Helping Students Grasp a Concept with Air Punctuation

by Ruth Anna Kuhns

Do your students struggle to remember commas, periods, and capital letters? Ruth Anna demonstrates a memorable kinesthetic method for reinforcing basic punctuation concepts.

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One of my frustrations over the years has been teaching punctuation when I feel like I remind my students again and again to end their sentences with periods, to start their sentences with capital letters. And I learned about air punctuation about 3 years ago. This is a kinesthetic way to help punctuation stick. The nice thing is that it works with any curriculum. I use it specifically in language arts class. I also use it with my first graders when they are beginning to put sentences together.

(Demonstration) With your hands, I want you to show me… What is the motion we use for a capital letter? Yes. You are showing me it’s a large letter.

At my age level that I am working with here we are using it at a very basic level so each punctuation mark has a sound and a motion.

(Demonstration) What is the motion and sound that you give me for a period? “Errrrr”. That’s right, because a period means to stop.

So I start with some fairly basic sentences with my first graders.

(Demonstration) Now, let’s look at number 20. Read it in your head again, and you can get ready to do that with air punctuation. (pause) Alright, is everyone ready? Don’t forget your capital letters. Are there any commas here? Ok. And… Go.

(Students demonstrating) We have a lot of snow in January.

So we’ll practice because it takes some coordination for them to get everything in line.

(Demonstration) The other punctuation mark that we’ve learned is the comma. What’s the sound that we use for a comma? “Yoop”. That’s right, because it’s a pause.

When using a comma, since a comma is just a pause, we pause for a bit so it’s simply the sound “yoop”. So if we want to separate nouns in a series, you’re going to use the comma. For example we might say, “We ate eggs “yoop” , bacon “yoop”, and toast for breakfast “errrr”.

(Demonstration) Show me what sentence 19 looks like with air punctuation. And…. Go.

(Students demonstrating) March “yoop”, April “yoop”, and May are spring months “errrr”.

We also use a question mark. For the question mark, what we like is—a question mark is asking a question obviously—and so we’ll use “huhm” to help us remember that.

(Students demonstration) Did you see Mr. and Mrs. Dean, “huhm”?

Ah. What does “huhm” mean? What’s that? It’s a question mark. Was that a question?

So I have found that working with punctuation in a kinesthetic way is a way to help students understand and grasp the concept even better. I don’t have to do as much reminding.

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CONTRIBUTOR: Ruth Anna Kuhns

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