When and how to use semi-colons
Semi-colons can be used to signal that two independent clauses are closely related in a way that a co-ordinating conjunction or a full stop does not. They can also be used to separate items in a list following a colon to ensure that the information is clear to the reader.
To help children understand when and how to use a semi-colon, be sure to offer plenty of modelled examples. Start by providing children with independant clauses that are separated by a full stop or linked with a co-ordinating conjunction and ask children to replace the existing punctuation with a semi-colon.
Then, provide children with two related independent clauses without any punctuation and ask children to identify where they need to add a semi-colon. Scrambled sentences also offer a great way to help children get to grips with when and where to use semi-colons in a sentence.
Another way to practise semi-colon use is to ask children to pair up. One child can write the first independent clause and add the semi-colon, the second child must add a second related, independent clause. These can be shared with the class to unpick whether the example is accurate and what impact the punctuation has on the reader.
Once children have mastered these activities, begin to embed examples within larger texts or provide examples where children must select the correct punctuation from a range of options. Can children spot all the places where a semi-colon is needed with a paragraph? Can children spot where a semi-colon is need rather than a colon or a full stop?
Why not use our FREE Semi-Colon Sentences activity to help your children understand where and when to how a semi-colon?