Commas, Colons, and Semicolons


Commas, Colons, and Semicolons explains some of the rules for how to use each of these punctuation marks. Students will learn to identify which punctuation mark is missing based on the structure of a sentence.

The “Options for Lesson” section on the classroom procedure page outlines a suggestion that you may want to incorporate into the lesson. Because this topic can be rather dull, you could have students play interactive games. There are three web pages listed that help students learn how to use commas, colons, and semicolons. And they will have a good time while learning! You can explore these sites for additional games for other lessons as well.

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What our Commas, Colons, and Semicolons lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Commas, Colons, and Semicolons teaches students the rules for using each of these punctuation marks. Students will discover how they differ and when and where to use each one. They will especially learn when to use colons and semicolons. This lesson is for students in 5th grade and 6th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the green box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. The supplies you’ll need for this lesson include pencils, pens, highlighters, large cards or white construction paper, and the handouts. To prepare for this lesson ahead of time, you can gather the supplies and copy the handouts.

Options for Lesson

Included with this lesson is an “Options for Lesson” section that lists a number of suggestions for activities to add to the lesson or substitutions for the ones already in the lesson. For this lesson, the only suggested addition is to use interactive games (linked in this section of the lesson plan) to increase students’ interest in the subject.

Teacher Notes

The teacher notes page includes a paragraph with additional guidelines and things to think about as you begin to plan your lesson. This page also includes lines that you can use to add your own notes as you’re preparing for this lesson.



The Commas, Colons, and Semicolons lesson plan includes three content pages. The lesson begins by asking students where and when they they commas. It explains that there are many uses for commas, so it can be hard to determine when you should use them. There are six basic comma rules that students will probably encounter in their writing.

Rule #1 is to separate independent clauses with a comma. We use commas before coordinating conjunctions when separating independent clauses. We can use the acronym FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) to remember the coordinating conjunctions. By placing a comma before the coordinating conjunction, you are separating the independent clause from the dependent clause.

Rule #2 is to insert a comma after introductory clauses. Introductory clauses add details to sentences, but we don’t need them to complete the sentence. Commas separate this unnecessary introductory information from the independent clause, which is the main part of the sentence.

Rule #3 is that commas separate words in a series. We use commas to separate three or more words in a series. Rule #4 is that appositive phrases must have commas around them. Appositive phrases are detailed information that adds clarity but are not needed to complete the sentence. When we use commas around appositive phrases, we are indicating that it is extra information.

Rule #5 is that we use commas in specific ways in quotations. We use quotations to offset dialogue in text. We use commas after the introduction of the person speaking, directly before the quotation begins.

Rule #6 is that we use commas when writing dates and addresses. Commas go after the day when writing a date, and between a city and state.


We don’t use colons in the same way as we use commas. We have three main rules for using colons.

Rule #1 is to use use colons in lists. We use colons at the beginning of a list, as they show that the list has started. We then also use commas in the list itself.

Rule #2 is to use colons between independent clauses. We use colons between independent clauses when the second clause explains the first clause. Colons used in this way indicate that the second clauses adds more detail to the first.

Rule #3 is to use colons for emphasis. We use them to highlight a specific word in order to emphasize it. Using a colon in this way also indicates that a reader should pause, adding dramatic effect.


People often misuse semicolons, because they can be tricky. We have three main rules for using semicolons.

Rule #1 is to use a semicolon to connect independent clauses. We can use semicolons to connect two independent clauses, instead of using a comma and a coordinating conjunction.

Rule #2 is to use a semicolon to connect independent clauses with a transition. This rule is similar to the first rule, but in this instance, we connect the clauses with a transitional word. Transitional words and phrases include however, next, therefore, for example, and in conclusion.

Rule #3 is to use a semicolon between discussed items in a series. We use semicolons with series or groups that includes phrases instead of single words.

Learning how to properly use commas, colons, and semicolons can be tricky. However, with practice, everyone can learn the rules! We use commas most frequently, and use colons and semicolons mostly in formal writing. All punctuation is intended to make writing easier to understand. If you use a comma, colon, or semicolon and it makes your writing harder to read, you may not be using it correctly!


The Commas, Colons, and Semicolons lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. You can refer to the guide on the classroom procedure page to determine when to hand out each worksheet.


For the activity worksheet, you will need to provide all the students with three large cards. Students will draw a large comma on one, a large colon on another, and a large semicolon on the last. Display on the board all 20 sentences that are on the worksheet. As you go through the sentences, students will raise the cards that indicates which punctuation mark they believe is missing in the sentence. They will have to describe both where it should go and why it is the correct mark.


The practice worksheet lists 10 sentences. Students must read the sentences and add a comma where it is necessary. On the line below each sentence, they must explain why they put the comma in that location.


Similar to the practice worksheet, the homework assignment lists 10 sentences. Students will read through the sentences and figure out where to put either a colon or a semicolon. They will write why the put the punctuation mark where they did on the line below each sentence.

Worksheet Answer Keys

This lesson plan includes answer keys for the practice worksheet and the homework assignment. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


5th Grade, 6th Grade


Language Arts

State Educational Standards


Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.