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As your child makes their way through primary school, they are introduced to new English grammar and punctuation.
We can be rusty when it comes to teaching the national curriculum as it feels like we were in the classroom a lifetime ago. Don't fret, we have created this free resource so teaching children to make perfectly punctuated sentences is less daunting.
This article is about colons and semicolons: when to use them, what kids need to know about them, and some resources to help you guide your child.
When To Use A Colon And Semicolon?
We use colons and semicolons for introductions and to create connections between clauses.
A colon looks like two dots, one on top of the other (:). Colons are used to bring attention to the words after it. Colons introduce a list, a quotation, or also between two independent linked clauses. An independent clause makes sense on its own as if it was a standalone sentence.
Here are some examples:
- I will buy these at the supermarket: bread, fruit, vegetables, and milk.
- The teacher announced: "The test is tomorrow!"
- The whole class agreed: the homework was easy.
A semicolon looks like one dot on top of a comma (;). They create a break in a sentence that is longer than a comma but not as final as a full stop.
It is used between two independent clauses that are related. Semicolons replace the conjunction (and, but, for, so). For example:
The breeze was cool; the sun was scorching.
Here, the semicolon replaces 'and'. The two clauses can serve as separate sentences but semicolon usage works more seamlessly.
Semicolons can also be used to separate items in a list that has long phrases. For example:
At the circus, I saw the following: a bear on a ball; a clown juggling; acrobats doing tricks; and many horses prancing.
You may be wondering, can you use semicolons after a colon? As in the last example, it is indeed.
What Is The Difference Between Them?
When choosing between using colons, semicolons, commas or full stops it can be tricky. The key is to use a semicolon when the second sentence does not explain the first: it is a completely new thought. On the other hand, colons are used when the second sentence explains the first.
What Are Children Taught About Colon and Semicolon Use?
Teaching about colons and semicolons happens gradually throughout KS2. In Year three children are first introduced to colons. By then, they should have had experience using commas, so the next step is teaching them about colons through learning how to write a list. Teachers provide examples of various lists and ask students to fill in colons and commas correctly. Then, children create their own list, for example, a shopping list.
Using colons to separate clauses is a more difficult concept so is taught in Year five or Year six. Semicolons are taught in Year six because they are more complex. Using colons and semicolons at clause boundaries are taught with worksheets and exercises where children insert punctuation correctly within a sentence. Once they get the hang of it, kids are encouraged to use them in their writing.
The ultimate test arrives in KS2 SATS, where children are expected to be able to place colons and semicolons correctly within a sentence.
Tips And Resources
There are tonnes of resources to ensure that kids have got to grips with semicolons and colons. Search no further, Kidadl is your one-stop resource for English grammar.
For something exciting and interactive, join the Grammar gang with MC Grammar who makes teaching this stuff a blast. This is a great resource to dip into again and again.
There are plenty of free online resources like worksheets, engaging tutorial videos and games. Kidadl has made it easier for you with this resource outlining the best free online games.
Get those creative juices flowing. Get your child to create posters with the rules and some examples, encourage reading and creative writing, and let your child take charge of writing lists. You can even ask teachers for suggested resources so that your kid gets that extra practice to be well-prepared.
Top Tip: Practice makes perfect, but make it fun, with online resources and activities!
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