The first step I take is direct instruction and daily practice of parts of speech, capitalization, and punctuation. I present three connected rules per week (for example, identifying adjectives, capitalizing proper adjectives, and commas in series of adjectives). Students practice with three sentences each day, spiraling their knowledge and understanding of mechanics. This has worked wonders in my own classroom. Mechanics: Your Daily Tune-Up is focused, gives plenty of practice, and takes only a few minutes a day.
L.4.2a simply says, "Use correct capitalization." No standards after fourth grade discuss capitalization. When I first saw this, I thought, "Wow, that means my students need to know all capitalization rules." As I came to realize that there are many rules for capitalization, the rules are quite detailed, and the resources available to teach them are few, I really said, "Wow!"
In addition to the mechanics program, I created interactive PowerPoint presentations, related worksheets, and extension activities for each rule. Then I wrote review sheets and tests. It was a big undertaking, but the end result was worth it! Each presentation got my kids involved with thumbs-up/thumbs-down and/or display of fingers for practice and effortless formative assessment.
This short video will give you a little taste of how the unit works. All nine PowerPoint/Lesson Plan sets are now available individually or as a bundle in my Teachers pay Teachers store:
- Capitalizing Dates and Names
- Capitalizing Holidays and Products
- Capitalizing Geographic Names
- Capitalizing Titles
- Capitalizing Celestial Objects
- Capitalizing Groups, Languages, and Religions
- Capitalizing Rooms, Course Titles, and Awards
- What Not to Capitalize
- Comprehensive Capitalization Unit (includes all PowerPoints, lesson plans, and extension activities; a quick reference guide and review; pretest and cumulative test)
Once students have learned all of the comma rules, I like to sprinkle in some review with free worksheets offered at Worksheetplace.com.
L.4.2b states: "Use commas and quotation marks to mark direct speech and quotations from a text." This extends the third grade standard by asking students to quote from a text. Although the CCSS does not officially ask fourth graders to quote from text when answering questions, it's a great way to practice (and gear up for Grade 5).
After reviewing placement of commas and quotation marks in text, I work with students to generate a list of tags to use when integrating quotes into writing, like this:
L.4.2c is simple and straightforward: "Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction in a compound sentence." Once your students can identify complete sentences (AKA independent clauses) and coordinating conjunctions, you're set.
This lesson and video on the Scholastic website may help. The author, Mary Blow, uses the acronym FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) to help students identify coordinating conjunctions then shows how to insert a comma when these are used to combine two sentences, or independent clauses. To reinforce this concept, try this Compound Sentence Practice from Joshua Durham (free on TpT).
You can liven up your lesson with this Comma Before Conjunction Lesson, which was created by two students and posted on YouTube. Even better, your students could create their own skits, jingles, or videos to teach the skill.
L.4.2d asks students to "spell grade-appropriate words correctly, consulting references as necessary." I hate to say it, but dictionaries in book form seem to be going the way of the dodo bird. I think it's time to teach kids how to use digital spell check options. Kids (and adults) can use tools found in word processing software or online spell check sites, such as SpellCheck.net.
That's it for fourth grade mechanics! If you need assessment for these (or all 20) language skills covered in the Common Core, Teaching and Tapas has published a complete 4th Grade Common Core Language Assessment. Check it out!