I will upload the resources/assets I used for this lesson in the near future, but I just wanted to report the INCREDIBLE response I receive from my students for this exercise. Here is what I did: first, I gave students a short grammar lesson on commas, maybe a half-hour. Then I distributed a 7×7 grid on a sheet of paper and had students draw–secretly!–a three-square-long ship on it. I then paired them up and gave them sentences to punctuate. If they got a question right, they got a torpedo to launch at their partners, a la battleship. Anyone with a ship still afloat by the end of the exercise got a prize (this was a mistake, by the way; I should have said “Anyone who sinks a battleship gets a prize”).
This is the sort of “gamified” exercise that makes Ian Bogost rage against the machine, but the fact is that it is one of the best grammar lessons I’ve ever conducted. Students were eager to learn from their mistakes, eager to send their classmates to a watery grave, and audibly improving with comma usage as the lesson went on. I say “audibly” because they cheered and fist-pumped and cabbage-patched in their desks when they were right, and groaned when they missed a question. It was everything we want our classes to be. And it came about because of a simple, quick-and-dirty game mod.