Go over the rules for commas and periods with your child. Need a refresher? The general rule is that commas and periods should be inside the quotation marks at all times, while all other forms of punctuation, such as question marks, colons, semicolons, and exclamation points, should be outside the quotation marks, unless they were contained in the original quotation. For example: "He likes to talk about football," she said, "especially when the Super Bowl is coming up." This is not to be confused with these other uses of commas:
Titles of short or minor works, such as songs, short stories, essays, short poems, one-act plays, and other literary works that are shorter than a three-act play or a complete book.
Titles of parts of larger works, such as chapters in books; articles in newspapers, magazines, journals, or other periodical publications; and episodes of television and radio series.
Have your child take a look at the use of character dialog in his favorite book or story. Ask him to point out examples of how the author correctly used quotation marks and commas.
Now put this skill to good use: have your child compose an alternate ending to the book or story, rich with lines of character dialog requiring, you guess it, quotation marks and commas! Then have your child put this skill into practice by having them compose an alternate ending to their favorite book!
When finished, read the new ending together with your child to be sure he used quotation marks and commas properly.
Jane Oh has taught third and fourth grades for 8 years. She has worked with many diverse groups of students. Most recently, she has written teacher textbook guides.