A teacher helping a student.
©

Mat Wright

Stage 1: Present examples 

Write these sentences on the board and ask: ‘What do you notice about the commas in the sentences?’ 

  • We bought apples, bananas and mangoes. 
  • My mum cooked rice, fish, onion and eggplant.  

To help learners, ask focused questions such as: 

  • Where is the comma in the first sentence?  
  • How many commas are there in the second sentence? Why?  
  • Are there any commas before or after the word ‘and’?  

Use L1 if necessary. 

Next, write these two sentences on the board and ask: ‘Which sentence means we are eating with Justin and which sentence means we are eating Justin?’ 

  • Let’s eat Justin. 
  • Let’s eat, Justin. 

Stage 2: Take feedback 

Ask learners to share their feedback on what they noticed in the examples. Here are some key points you might want to share with them. 

  • We use commas in a list. Each word, apart from the last one, is separated by a comma. 
  • We don’t use a comma before the first word. 
  • We connect the last word using ‘and’. 
  • We can change the meaning of a sentence with a comma.   
  • When speaking, we normally pause slightly when there is a comma.  

Note: In some cases you might come across the ‘Oxford comma’, which adds a comma before the ‘and’. Sentence a would therefore be: We bought apples, bananas, and mangoes. 

Stage 3: Use the grammar 

Put the commas in 

Write the following sentences on the board without the commas. Ask the learners to add the commas:  

  • He was hot, tired and angry. 
  • We saw a giraffe, an elephant, two hippos and a leopard. 
  • Have you seen this, Mum?  

You can check the answers by asking volunteers to come up to the board and add the commas. Which is correct? 

Write the following sentences on the board without the commas. Ask the learners to choose which sentence is correct:  

a. Let’s eat Grandma. 

b. Let’s eat, Grandma. 

 

a. The frog has small, yellow spots. 

b. The frog has small yellow, spots. 

 

a. In school we had geography, science and English. 

b. In school we had geography science and English. 

Say it! 

Say: ‘When we speak you can hear the commas as short pauses between the words.’  

Choose seven learners to sit in a circle with you (the teacher) as the eighth.  

Say: ‘I went to the market and bought some bananas.’ Point to the learner sitting on your left and say: ‘Repeat the sentence and say one more item.’  

They say, for example, ‘I went to the market and bought some bananas and some apples …’ Then point to the next learner to repeat and add a new item, e.g. ‘… some bananas, some apples and a bag.’ 

Each time the sentence is extended there should be a comma between the old items. When they say these words, they should leave a pause. 

Glossary

Feedback: Information about how or how well a learner has done something. 

L1: The language learned from birth (= mother tongue).