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Common Core Standards: ELA

Grades 9-10

Language L.9-10.2

L.9-10.2. Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

  • Use a semicolon (and perhaps a conjunctive adverb) to link two or more closely related independent clauses.
  • Use a colon to introduce a list or quotation.
  • Spell correctly.

By grades nine and ten, the rule that a capital letter begins a sentence and a punctuation mark ends a sentence are second nature, and students are generally ready to move on to more exciting punctuation frontiers: the colon and the semicolon.

Most students know how to find the colon and semicolon on a keyboard, since both marks are indispensable elements of emoticons like :) or ;) . They may, however, be less familiar with their uses in sentences. (A quick guide to memory: the semicolon is winking, but the colon is not.) This Common Core Standard asks students to use semicolons to link related sentences, with and without the help of conjunctive adverbs like “however,” “therefore,” or “subsequently.” Colons, meanwhile, introduce lists or quotations.

And, as always, this second core standard for language reminds students that, yes, spelling counts.

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Teaching Guides Using this Standard

Example 1

Sample Activities For Use in Class

Semicolons: They’re Not Just For Winking Anymore

Have students work independently or in pairs to create several complete, closely-related sentence pairs. For example:

Herman left his baseball mitt in his mother’s car.
He sat in the dugout for the entire game trying to blow the world’s biggest bubblegum bubble.

Dottie wanted to win the first-ever women’s Olympic ski-jumping medal.
She worked out seven days a week and practiced jumping every day but Sunday.

Once students have their sentence pairs, have students first connect each pair with a semicolon, like so:

Herman left his baseball mitt in his mother’s car; he sat in the dugout for the entire game trying to blow the world’s biggest bubblegum bubble.

Dottie wanted to win the first-ever women’s Olympic ski-jumping medal; she worked out seven days a week and practiced jumping every day but Sunday.

Have each student or group read one of their now-combined-with-a-semicolon sentences aloud or write it on the board. Discuss whether the semicolon is used correctly and, if not, what needs to change to make the semicolon correct. Remind students not to turn either sentence into a dependent clause. The semicolon joins two complete sentences, not a complete sentence to an incomplete one. (That’s what the comma is for.)

Once students have joined together their complete sentences and shared them with the class, have them practice adding conjunctive adverbs after the semicolon to make the relationship between the two sentences clearer. For example:

Herman left his baseball mitt in his mother’s car; consequently, he sat in the dugout for the entire game trying to blow the world’s biggest bubblegum bubble.

Dottie wanted to win the first-ever women’s Olympic ski-jumping medal; therefore, she worked out seven days a week and practiced jumping every day but Sunday.

Re-group and discuss as above. Try swapping out conjunctive adverbs to make more or less coherent sentences.

Introduction to Colons

The Common Core Standards suggest focusing on two primary colon uses: to introduce a list, or to introduce a quotation. Therefore, students should begin by creating lists. They can create them off the top of their heads, based on flashcards or objects drawn out of a bag, or in any manner you prefer. Have students arrange their lists into a sentence, with a colon to introduce the list. For example:

I went to the store to buy three things: cheese, lettuce, and a goat.

Jamie knows what it takes to succeed in college: dedication, perseverance, and a way to back up all your files.

The colon specifically introduces lists (or quotations) that begin immediately after an independent clause, also known as a “complete sentence.” Therefore, lists (or quotations) should follow clauses like the ones used above. Colons should not appear in sentences like “I went to the store to buy: cheese, lettuce, and a goat.”

Quiz 1 Questions

Here's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.

  1. Which of the following sentences uses a semicolon correctly?

    Correct Answer:

    Instead, I went to the park alone; Robin stayed home to practice the violin.

    Answer Explanation:

    These are two complete, related sentences, which can be joined by a semicolon.


  2. Which of the following sentences uses a conjunctive adverb with a semicolon?

    Correct Answer:

    I knew it was ridiculous to want to be a duck when I’m a person; nevertheless, it was my number one career choice until I discovered astronauts.

    Answer Explanation:

    “Nevertheless” is a conjunctive adverb.


  3. Which of the following conjunctive adverbs BEST completes this sentence? “Dogs who live outdoors should be kept in a fenced yard; ______, they might run into the road and be injured.”

    Correct Answer:

    otherwise

    Answer Explanation:

    “Otherwise” indicates “this is what will happen if the first sentence is not followed,” which makes sense when the choice is “fenced yard” or “injured dog.”


  4. Which of the following conjunctive adverbs is spelled incorrectly?

    Correct Answer:

    undoutedly

    Answer Explanation:

    “undoubtedly”


  5. In your introduction to your science fair project, you want to explain that you thought of it when your brother came home carrying a rock, a feather, and a bottle of soda. Which of the following sentences uses a colon correctly to explain your inspiration?

    Correct Answer:

    “My brother came home carrying three things: a rock, a feather, and a bottle of soda.”

    Answer Explanation:

    The colon appears after an independent clause and before a list, where it belongs.


  6. Tired of writing “Shakespeare says,” over and over in your essay, you decide to introduce Shakespeare’s quotations in your essay by using a colon. Which of the following is the correct way to do it?

    Correct Answer:

    Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice contains a well-known line: “The quality of mercy is not strained.”

    Answer Explanation:

    (e) - The colon appears after an independent clause, which is correct.


  7. Which of the following sentences uses a colon correctly AND has no misspelled words?

    Correct Answer:

    Josie missed four words on her spelling test: baleful, condone, trite, and solicit.

    Answer Explanation:

    The colon comes after an independent clause and the words are spelled correctly.


  8. In one of the following sentences, the underlined word is misspelled. Which sentence is it?

    Correct Answer:

    The mouse’s keen olfactery sense told him there was cheese nearby.

    Answer Explanation:

    “Olfactory.”


  9. Which of the following sentences uses a semicolon correctly AND has all its words spelled correctly?

    Correct Answer:

    Jim and Stacy wanted to go to the zoo, but it was closed; moreover, it was raining, and Stacy has an inherent fear of getting chilled.

    Answer Explanation:

    (c) - Every single word in this sentence is spelled correctly AND the semicolon joins two related independent clauses.


  10. Which of the following words is not spelled correctly?

    Correct Answer:

    pugnashious

    Answer Explanation:

    “pugnacious”


Quiz 2 Questions

Here's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.

  1. Which of the following sentences uses a semicolon correctly?

    Correct Answer:

    Noah has never met a baby girl before; consequently, he calls Olivia a “girl puppy.”

    Answer Explanation:

    (b) - The semicolon here correctly joins two related independent clauses.


  2. Which of the underlined words in the following sentences is NOT spelled correctly?

    Correct Answer:

    Whether Tia found the perfect dress or not, she was definately going to prom.

    Answer Explanation:

    “Definitely”


  3. Which of the following is the right place for the colon in this sentence: Ralph Waldo Emerson however was more blunt “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

    Correct Answer:

    Ralph Waldo Emerson, however, was more blunt: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

    Answer Explanation:

    (a) - This is the only sentence that correctly places the colon after an independent clause and before the quote that the clause introduces.


  4. How should a semicolon be used to join the following two sentences?

    Samir makes an incredible shepherd’s pie.                                                                                           Samir spends four days in the kitchen preparing his signature dish.

    Correct Answer:

    Samir spends four days in the kitchen preparing his signature dish; therefore, he makes an incredible shepherd’s pie.

    Answer Explanation:

    (d) - This is the only sentence that has a semicolon joining related independent clauses.


  5. Which of the following words is NOT spelled correctly?

    Correct Answer:

    discrepency

    Answer Explanation:

    “discrepancy”


  6. Which of the following sentences uses a semicolon where it should use a colon?

    Correct Answer:

    Four of Henry’s six wives were considerably younger than he was; Anne, Jane, Anna, Catherine, and Katherine.

    Answer Explanation:

    (c) - A list follows a semicolon here, which is incorrect. To correct the punctuation of this sentence, the semicolon should be replaced with a colon.


  7. Which of the following sentences uses a colon where it should use a semicolon?

    Correct Answer:

    The Wars of the Roses were fought between two prominent English families: the families disagreed strongly on who should get the throne.

    Answer Explanation:

    (c) - Since the two parts of this sentence are related, independent clauses, a semicolon should be used to separate them rather than a colon.


  8. Which of the following is NOT a conjunctive adverb?

    Correct Answer:

    of

    Answer Explanation:

    (a) - This is a preposition.


  9. Which of the following words is NOT spelled correctly?

    Correct Answer:

    antibellam

    Answer Explanation:

    “antebellum”


  10. Which of the following words is NOT spelled correctly?

    Correct Answer:

    all of the above words are spelled correctly

    Answer Explanation:

    (e) - Yep! They’re all correct.


Aligned Resources

More standards from Grades 9-10 - Language