The White Fox / During Reading / /


Investigating punctuation used to demarcate direct speech.

Lesson length: 1 session

Lesson from The White Fox series

Required reading: 9, 50, 62, 63

Text potential

  • Language features: Dialogue: direct speech

Strategies used

  • Text Marking


Investigating a text to work out the rules of punctuating direct speech is a way of helping the information stick in the memory. Conventions for punctuating direct speech can vary, such as whether to use single or double inverted commas. Generally, the conventions about punctuation at the end of direct speech or when to start on a new line are consistent, particularly in books for children. Inverted commas to punctuate direct speech is usually introduced in Year Three. This lesson consolidates and extends prior learning. 


  • Copies of The White Fox, at least one per pair.
  • Copies of Direct Speech resource, one per pair.
  • Copies of Direct Speech Questions, one per pair. Alternatively, these could be displayed on the whiteboard.


Explain that you will be using The White Fox to investigate the rules for speech punctuation. Begin by asking the children to turn to page 9 of the story and talk to their partner about the way the speech is set out.

Distribute the ‘Questions About Speech’ resource to pairs and ask them to use page 9 of the story to try and answer the questions. The questions are designed to guide the exploration:

  • When do you start a new line?
  • Where do the inverted commas go? 
  • Where do you put punctuation at the end? 
  • Is there any punctuation after the reporting clause

Explain what inverted commas look like. The children may be more familiar with the term ‘speech marks’. Give an example of a reporting clause, e.g., ‘he said’, ‘she answered’. 

Share findings and scribe a list of rules on the board or large sheet of paper. Distribute copies of the Direct Speech Resource, which contains two extracts from The White Fox without speech punctuation. Pairs should begin by reading the first passage aloud to get a sense of where the speech is before adding inverted commas and any other punctuation that is missing. Line breaks should also be indicated. To embed the learning further, the children could choose one of the passages to write out with the punctuation added, and the line breaks in the correct place. 

As a further extension, challenge the children to write another passage containing speech. This could take the form of a conversation between Sol and his father at the end of the story when he returns from Seattle. 

Final reflection

Reflect on the investigative nature of the lesson by asking:

  • How likely are you to remember the conventions for speech punctuation we have learned about today?
  • Would it have been different if I had told you the rules?

Key vocabulary

inverted commas, reporting clause, line break

Additional vocabulary

speech marks


White Fox Direct Speech Resource

White Fox Direct Speech Resource

Direct Speech Questions

Direct Speech Questions


Sam Keeley

Formerly a teacher and local authority advisory teacher, Sam now works with Just Imagine as an English consultant and manager of the year 6 Reading Gladiators programme.

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