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5.4 Year 5: using commas to clarify meaning or avoid ambiguity in writing

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This resource is part of our grammar curriculum
Real Grammar
  • Covers every objective for years 1-6
  • Five-step sequence ensures deep understanding
  • Includes asssessment and revision tools

This Real Grammar KS2 resources pack provides everything that you need to learn how commas can be used when writing to provide clarity for the reader and avoid ambiguity. These two words are explained, with examples of when commas should be used. Teaching slides, worksheets, games and an opportunity to apply the new learning in a writing task are all included to revisit the use of commas to clarify and avoid ambiguity with pupils in Year 5, or to revisit this area of learning.

Pupils need to have a secure understanding of how commas are used to punctuate the following: lists (Year 2); after fronted adverbials (Year 4); with subordinate subordinate clauses (year 3); and to punctuate parenthesis (Year 5). Separate Real Grammar packs are available for each of these in the relevant year groups.

When are commas used?

Commas are used in a variety of ways. They are used to clarify meaning and avoid ambiguity when the meaning could be unclear, which is the focus of this resource pack.

Commas are used in a variety of ways to help clarify information for the reader and avoid ambiguity in the following ways:

  • To separate a subordinate clause from the main clause when it comes at the beginning of a sentence or is inserted in the middle of the main clause.
  • After a fronted adverbial to separate it from the rest of the sentence.
  • To separate names in a sentence when addressing them directly.
  • To separate items in a list.
  • To punctuate parenthesis.

What does ‘clarify’ mean?

To clarify means to make something less confusing and more understandable. Related words are clarifying, clarified and clarification.

What does ‘ambiguity’ mean?

Ambiguity means that something could be open to more than one interpretation. It could be ambiguous.

How do commas provide clarity and avoid ambiguity?

Commas help make the meaning clear to the reader and avoid confusion. Some examples are listed below.

Making it clear who is being named

  • Karen, the sports coach is leaving.

In this sentence, Karen is being spoken to and told the information that the sports coach is leaving.

  • Karen the sports coach is leaving.

In this sentence, Karen is the name of the sports coach.

Making lists clear

  • Max loves baking, puppies and playing in the park.

In this sentence, three things that Max loves are listed.

  • Max loves baking puppies and playing in the park.

In this sentence, it looks like Max enjoys two things, one of them being baking puppies!

Making meaning clear

  • After, dark owls flew above the fields.

In this sentence, the dark owls flew after something else had happened.

  • After dark, owls flew above the fields.

In this sentence, the owls flew ‘after dark’.

Showing who said something in reported speech

  • The puppy said the young girl was always up to mischief.

In this sentence, the reader may think that the puppy is talking about the young girl.

  • The puppy, said the young girl, was always up to mischief.

In this sentence, we know that the young girl is talking about the puppy.

What is included in this resource pack?

This pack is divided into five parts:


This section includes PowerPoint teaching slides and teaching notes with an optional script to introduce commas for clarity and to avoid ambiguity. It can also be used to revisit this aspect of grammar with pupils.


An independent activity for pupils to practise using what they have been taught, allowing teachers to assess understanding.


A series of short, 10-minute activities that can be used following the TEACH session to revisit and rehearse what has been taught. These may be short writing tasks, grammar games or editing/proofreading activities.


A short writing task where pupils can use the grammar skills taught in context to produce independent writing.


Five SATs style test questions, including cloze activities and multiple choice quiz questions, based on the grammar that has been taught.

Teachers can choose which section of the resource pack to use according to their pupils’ needs and could use the activities over a series of lessons or weeks

Teacher notes are provided to show how these quality resources could be used with pupils.

How is this resource differentiated?

The PRACTISE and REVISE sections include three activities differentiated for three levels of ability:

  • Worksheet 1 for pupils who may need support. Questions will have a lower cognitive domain (what is being asked of pupils) and/or vocabulary used may be simplified where possible.
  • Worksheet 2 for pupils working at age related expectations.
  • Worksheet 3 for pupils who may need an additional challenge and may be working at a greater depth in this area. Questions will have a higher cognitive domain with more challenging vocabulary.

SUPPORT and CHALLENGE ideas are also included in the teacher notes of each section where relevant, with ideas of how to support pupils working towards the expected standard or at greater depth in this area.

What pupil-facing resources are included?


    PPT slides; model text ‘Snake escape’


    Practise 1, Practise 2 and Practise 3 worksheets


    Game 1, game 2


    Planning sheet


    PPT slides; Revise 1, Revise 2 and Revise 3 worksheets

Answer sheets for all worksheets are provided, where appropriate.

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