Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Creating Punctuation Practice Activities with Google Docs

Capitalization and punctuation are skills addressed with students at every grade level in school. In fact the Common Core has a standard that spans all of K-12:

CC.K-12.L.R.2 Conventions of Standard English: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

There are many ways for students to learn, develop, and master these skills. One popular option is to provide students with a sample selection of text that is missing proper punctuation and capitalization, and then have the students make the needed corrections. With a quick search you could probably find quite a few worksheets with such activities already created for you.

However, what if you want to make your own practice activities for your students? Thankfully with Google Docs and two simple tricks you can easily convert any sample text into such an activity.

See below for detailed directions for how to make your own punctuation and capitalization practice activities quickly and easily with Google Docs.

Step #1 - Sample text

To begin with you will need to have some sample text. This could be:

  • An article from a current event website
  • A selection from the novel being read in class
  • A portion of student writing
  • Or something of your own creation

Whatever the case, copy and paste the sentences or paragraphs into a Google Doc.

However, to turn this into an correction activity for your students, you will now need to remove all of the punctuation and convert all the capital letters into lowercase. Although you could do this by hand, one letter and one punctuation mark at a time, ain’t no one got time for that!

Thankfully there are two Docs tricks to do this in a snap.

Step #2 - Remove capitalization

First we want to convert all of the capital letters into lowercase letters. Here is how to do this:
  • Select all of the text that you wish to convert.
  • Then click "Format" in the top menu bar.
  • Choose "Text" from the drop-down menu.
  • Then select "Capitalization".
  • Finally choose "lowercase".

All of your selected text will now be converted into lowercase letters.

Step #3 - Remove punctuation

Now that all of the capital letters are lowercase, the next step is to remove all of the punctuation. This can be done by using the “Find and replace” feature already built into Docs. By using a special option called “regular expressions” you can tell Docs to find and remove anything that is not normal text, such as all of the punctuation. Here’s how…

  • Click “Edit” in the top menu bar, and then “Find and replace”.
  • For the “Find” box, type in (or copy and paste in) this special code:

[^0-9a-zA-Z \n]

  • Nerd warning: For those that care, basically this is a special code called a “regular expression” that says to look for anything that is not a number, a letter, a space, or an end of line character.
  • For the “Replace with” box, leave it completely blank (since you are trying to get rid of all of the punctuation)
  • Next check the box for “Match using regular expressions”.
  • Finally click “Replace all”.

And poof! All of the punctuation will be removed from the document all at once.

(For those who really want to learn how regular expressions work, you can find out more here: https://support.google.com/docs/answer/62754#regular_expressions )

Step #4 - Let students correct the document

Finally you will have a selection of text with no capital letters and no punctuation, looking very much like an E. E. Cummings poem. This is perfect for your students to go through and practice correcting. You can provide this as an activity for your students in several ways:

  • Push out a copy to each student as an assignment in Google Classroom for each student to edit by adding punctuation and capitalizing letters as needed.
  • Or share a “View Only” copy with your students so they can make their own copies to edit.
  • Or pull up the document for the whole class to see and work through the corrections collaboratively as a class.

Post by Eric Curts. Connect with Eric on Twitter at twitter.com/ericcurts 


  1. Thank you for sharing this add-on. I can't wait to pass this along to my ELA teachers.

  2. Fantastic add-on and timesaver--thanks!

  3. This is nifty!! Thanks for sharing! Who knew there was an add-on to *undo* your grammatical efforts? :) Perfect for practice though!

  4. Remember to remind your students: only ONE space after a period (we're word-processing, not typing).

    1. Do students still put in two spaces? I thought it was just us old-timers who still had that bad habit. We are the same people who call a line break a carriage return (and know why it is called that)!

    2. I can't seem to break that habit!

  5. This will definitely help my students improve their grammar

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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