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Education Gadfly Podcast — May 31, 2007

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Punctuation Man

Contra Costa Times

Grammar project a pleasant sentence for kids

Program teaches proper punctuation, using games and songs to keep young children interested

By Kimberly S. Wetzel
CONTRA COSTA TIMES
December 19, 2006

Quick: When is it appropriate to use a semicolon in a sentence? How about a colon or exclamation point?

Not sure? You're not alone. Punctuation mistakes are common in everything from e-mails to newsletters, magazines to newspapers.

That doesn't sit well with Jeff Rubin, a Pinole resident and founder of National Punctuation Day.

"I thought about all the grammar and punctuation errors I see every day, and it bothered me," he said.

So Rubin — who also runs a Web site showing examples of grammatical and punctuation mistakes — decided to do something about it by teaching children proper period placement before they develop bad habits.

Playtime photoRubin has created "Punctuation Playtime," an interactive assembly program geared toward first- through fourth-graders. The idea is to help students learn how to use correct punctuation in sentences for their corresponding skill level.

The 45-minute program features games such as "pin the punctuation on the sentence" and relay races, and even includes a punctuation rap song. Students receive punctuationally correct worksheets and bumper stickers to help facilitate learning.

"The kids just have a great time with this," Rubin said. "They giggle, they're having fun, they're yelling."

That's exactly what happened at Richmond's Nystrom Elementary last week, when Rubin brought Punctuation Playtime to the school to show third- and fourth-graders the importance of comma correctness using giant flash cards and silly songs.

The students responded with shrieks of delight.

Rubin, who is just getting started with the program, has visited five schools in the West Contra Costa Unified School District this year. The other four schools to get the rundown on when to use exclamation points were Grant, Murphy, Ellerhorst and Tara Hills elementaries, where Rubin elicited similar reactions from the students.

"The kids just love it, and they learn something," he said.

The program was made possible this year by a grant from The Mechanics Bank and the West Contra Costa Public Education Fund, a nonprofit organization that funds projects deemed to have educational value. Rubin also has brought Punctuation Playtime to a San Francisco school and is looking to expand the program throughout the Bay Area.

"By the end of the class, you can see that their education level has increased," Rubin said.

This year, National Punctuation Day, which was included in Chase’s Calendar of Events, was observed Sept. 24.

ON THE WEB
Visit www.nationalpunctuationday.com to learn more about National Punctuation Day.