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No Comma After an Introductory Element
Transcript of No Comma After an Introductory Element
by Allen Eby
Let me start again...
Although I was trying to make a point, I was totally out of line there!
If I can get my facts straight, then I can tell you the real problem.
After all that hard work on writing, we still don't know where the commas go!
Usually, clauses and phrases serving as adverbs form introductory word groups. They tell us when, where, how, why, or under what conditions the main part of the sentence occurred.
The comma lets us know that the introductory part of the sentence is over. They help us focus on the main part, or the meat, of the sentence. They can aid reading aloud–helping us emphasize the proper parts–and also help us make sense of what the sentence is trying to say.
(I know I just said this, but you need to hear it)
Some signal words indicate a comma is probably needed. These include:
When Christmas gets here, I'll be soooooo happy!
Before we get started, let us pray.
Anderson, Jeff. 2005. Mechanically Inclined: Building Grammar, Usage, and Style into Writer's Workshop. Stenhouse.
Riordan, Rick. 2005. Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief. Hyperion, New York.
Ries, Stephen. Using Commas with Introductory Phrases. http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/quizzes/nova/nova2.htm
Using Commas Effectively. Teaching & Learning Center. 68 PLC, 346-3226
That's the problem with commas in general, but what's the problem with introductory elements?
If you ask me the problem is where does the meat of the sentence start?
If I could only tell where the introduction ends and the main part of the sentence begins this process would be much easier! (whoo, that was a long one =P)
After I go to the bathroom I'll tell you the way to solve it!
A little comma 'n' sense
one more time
Failure to use a comma after an opener, introductory phrase, dependent (i.e. subordinate) clause, modifier, transition or transitional phrase.
Now you try...
Pick one of the following:
Write a sentence about a holiday with an introductory phrase using a signal word.
Write a sentence about homework using a dependent (subordinate) clause starting with a subordinating conjunction.
Write a sentence about something surprising using a transition word or phrase.
The basic rule
If a sentence begins with a phrase or dependent clause or transition, you probably need a comma to separate it from the independent clause that follows. In other words, use a comma after an introduction or opener.
And we all do it sometimes!
Some Review Definitions
Introductory phrase: let's break it down!
"Introductory": Sounds like introduction, which would be to set the stage for something more important that is coming up next.
"Phrase": We learned about phrases, right? A phrase is different from a clause because it doesn't have...oh what was it...BOTH A SUBJECT AND A VERB! (sorry, didn't mean to yell...;)
So, what would that look like, you ask?
Introductory Phrase Examples:
You know what I noticed?
Afraid of using commas incorrectly some writers avoid them altogether, other people, insert commas often, and everywhere, creating, confusion, unnecessary pauses between ideas, and run-on sentences.
Did you see the problem? Awkward, huh.
Before ordering a third pizza, you should make sure that Dad has enough cash.
If taken literally, that sentence would make no sense.
When looking for truffles, one should always bring a pig.
After borrowing Mom's van, you must always clean it out thoroughly.
Since the parade, downtown seems really glum.
NOTICE! Before, after, if, when, and since can be signal words that a comma might be needed!
After chasing the ice cream truck two blocks Priscilla and I realized we didn’t have any money.
What's wrong with this sentence?
Why do students do this?
New to using complex sentences
Introductory elements are often their first attempts at complex sentences
Additionally, a lack of clear conceptual knowledge regarding the functions and identifications of:
Simply put, they don't know why they should do it.
Let me straight-up blow your mind with grammar jargon...
When the dog arrived,
the boy ran to greet him.
If we can escape alive
, I think I will have a chicken sandwich.
Transitional word (or phrase)
they needed to gain a yard.
acting as an adjective –
In the pantry,
the bread looked old and moldy. (Note – “In the pantry” is also called an
because it is acting as an adjective
the subject “bread.”)
Past participle phrase
Finished with his work,
Doug played a rough game of football.
Present participial phrase
Taking a short-cut,
Mel soon reached his humble, brick home.
His painting completed,
he went with his parents to the hockey game.
Some more review definitions
: has a subject and a verb but cannot stand alone.
: a complete sentence by itself.
Mentor Text: (from Anderson)
When I saw the woman
she reminded me of a bird
Though her hair was white with age
she walked with small, quick, lively steps
. (p. 13)
—Laurence Yep, The Star Fisher
by the way, these are sometimes ADVERBIAL!
Subordinating Conjunction Junction
If there were an Olympic event for ________, ________ would sweep the event.
Or phrases like:
For this reason,
In other words,
Poseidon denies stealing the master bolt."
Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, p. 137
Prepositional phrases can be used as introductory elements, too!
Under the bed,
Samuel felt safe and protected.
Inside the locker,
Julian was awash with shame.
These can be reversed for checking:
under the bed,
and felt safe and protected.
inside the locker,
and was awash with shame.
This is so complicated, half the time I'm confused. How can we possibly teach all of this!!!
The first step is to know your stuff.
Keep it simple!
This activity is simple, but allows for trial and error practice.
Make 'em use their WORDS!
This is also a simple strategy. Write a few sentences on the board (project them on a Smartboard if you're lucky) and read through the sentences. Have the students shout out "Comma!" when you come to the point where the comma should be inserted. This gets out some energy, gets everyone involved, and allows your auditory learners to benefit from the vocal nature of the interaction. Additionally, you can have them explain what is going on in the introductory element (clause or phrase, subordinating conjunction or prepositional phrase, etc.). Keep points to make it fun!
Organize students in teams. Use projector with doc cam or Smartboard to project sentences onto the board one at a time. The students get 10 seconds to look the sentence over, then they go! They run (or hurry) to the board and label a part of speech or sentence element. Each sentence is timed according to age, general class proficiency, and sentence difficulty. Additionally, they input needed punctuation (commas on introductory elements) and then score is kept by counting correct versus incorrect labels. As the sentences get corrected you discuss what was done wrong or right and why.
Differentiation and Diversity
Not everyone can label a sentence really fast, right? Here's the solution. Organize your teams to include scaffolding, where teams are evenly matched with proficient and struggling students. Facilitate rotation so struggling students can go first to allow them to get some of the easier parts of speech (not every time, but enough success to foster competency in the game). Create a bonus time extension based on the correct answers of the proficient students which allows more time for the struggling ones. This way, proficiency gets rewarded and the students who need more time get it. Most importantly, MAKE IT FUN!
(and sometimes not)