Sentence First Aid: An exercise to practice punctuation

Practicing punctuation in some people’s view may be as exciting as washing dishes, but by providing an interesting context or creating a game-like atmosphere, study of the topic is more enjoyable. This is key because a memorable exercise facilitates the retention of information. Many months ago, I shared the activities News Writer and Partner Swap to help students learn correct use of punctuation marks. Let me offer one more:


LEVEL: High beginner to advanced. You can make the activity level-appropriate by writing sentences with suitable vocabulary and grammar.

STEP 1 – Compose 5 sentences. Include mistakes targeting the punctuation already studied, e.g., final sentence punctuation, quotation marks in direct speech, use of commas in complex and compound sentences, and use of apostrophes in contractions. Each sentence should have at least one punctuation mistake. Prepare individual copies of the sentences for the students. You can indicate the number of mistakes in each sentence.


  1. I wanted to take the dog for a walk but it was raining (2 mistakes)
  2. The storm was so bad that the lights went out so we couldnt see in our house. (2 mistakes)
  3. My mother found some candles but she didnt know where to find matches. (2 mistakes)
  4. My father asked Don’t we have a flashlight. (3 mistakes)
  5. By the time we found the matches and the flashlight the power had come back on (2 mistakes)

STEP 2 – Prepare “band-aids” on paper. For every mistake in the five sentences you created, there should be a slip of paper with the punctuation mark named and its use cited. Examples: period = used at the end of a sentence; question mark = used at the end of a question; comma = used before a coordinating conjunction such as and, or, but. Prepare enough sets of band-aids for small groups of 4-5 students. (For instance, if you have a class of 15, you know you’ll have 3 small groups, so you’ll need 3 sets of band-aids.)

STEP 3 – Divide students into small groups of 4-5. Distribute copies of the sentences.  Give students 1-2 minutes to look through them silently. Then place a set of band-aids in the center of each group. Taking turns, each student draws a band-aid from the pile and decides which sentence to apply it to. The other members of the group can agree or disagree. Once a collective decision has been made, all members must make the correction on their individual copies.

STEP 4 – When all the band-aids have been used, the corrections will be shared with the class. Volunteers can write their answers on the board.

STEP 5 – RECOMMEDATION: Repeat the activity with a second and even third set of sentences.

Online resource: The Punctuation Tree


6 Comments Add yours

  1. Dear Jennifer,

    Thank you so much for what you are doing for English learners and English teachers. You are an amazing teacher and a source of great inspiration for many, including me.

    Your website helps me a lot with my preparation for the Dip TESOL exam and preparation for my English classes in general.

    Thank you!

    Best wishes,

    1. Hello Ina. Thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to write. I’m very happy to know my materials online have helped you. Kind wishes to you!

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