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William Shakespeare / During Reading / /

Parenthesis

Investigating the use of parentheses to add extra information to sentences.

Lesson length: 1 session

Lesson from William Shakespeare series

Required reading: 7, whole book

Text potential

  • Language features: Punctuation: commas (bracketing)

Strategies used

  • Language Study

Purpose

Parentheses are used to keep information separate from the main body of the sentence. It is important to learn about them to make sense of the text. Readers may not realise that the information contained within brackets, commas or dashes can be read separately. It is also useful to learn to use them to convey information economically.

Preparation

  • Copies of Shakespeare, at least one per pair.

Process

Share the following sentence, which appears on page 7: 

Calfskin gloves are the height of Elizabethan fashion and, at the age of about 15, Will begins to learn his father’s business. 

Ask:

  • What is the purpose of the commas here? 

Say: 

‘Let’s take away the section which is marked out by the commas and see what we are left with.’

Calfskin gloves are the height of Elizabethan fashion, and Will begins to learn his father’s business.

Ask: 

  • Does this make sense? (The children should recognise that it does.)
  • What is the purpose of the at the age of about 15?  (The children should recognise that it contains additional information.)

Introduce the term phrase, parenthesis. The children may be interested to know that the word is Greek and means ‘putting in beside’. Explain that a parenthesis is a word/phrase inserted into a sentence to make a comment on or give more information to your reader about something you have just written. Brackets, dashes and commas are used to signal the parenthesis. 

Share the following sentence from page 14, which has the punctuation missing and ask pairs if they can add commas correctly:

By 1588 many others, including the Roman Catholic Priest William Hartley were executed as well. 

Share the correctly punctuated sentence: 

By 1588 many others, including the Roman Catholic Priest William Hartley, were executed as well. 

Explain that brackets and dashes can be used to indicate parenthesis and experiment with the effect the use of different punctuation marks has on the reader. 

Finally, set pairs the challenge of finding further examples of parentheses in the book and recording these using sticky notes or a large sheet of paper. 

Final reflection

Set the challenge of inserting parentheses to the following sentence:

William Shakespeare was born in 1564. 

  • How many different sentences can the children write? Share some examples.

Key vocabulary

parenthesis, parentheses, comma, dash, bracket

Contributors

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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