Punctuation Games

Our Daughter Louisa

Our Daughter Louisa

I’ve always found language arts workbooks dreadful. I know some children like doing them, but I love English and those workbooks seem to reduce a rich, lovely language to a dull, fill-in-the-blank exercise. I like to make things into a game.  So, when it comes to learning punctuation skills, I am all about learning them through an interactive game. Here’s how we learn the punctuation symbols and how to use them in my homeschool:

Punctuation Game

Get a stack of 3 x 5″ blank index cards and write a punctuation symbol on each card, including period, comma, question mark, exclamation point, hyphen, colon and so forth. If a child is old enough to write well, he should make his own set. You’ll need a stack too. They should look something like this:


Now, seat your children apart, facing you and not each other so they are not able to see each other’s cards easily. For starters, just use the cards with the period, question mark and exclamation mark. Set others aside.

Explain the differences in how a sentence sounds when it ends with each of these punctuation marks. For example, read this sentence without emotion:
Mary bakes bread.
Show the card with the period symbol on it and explain that this sentence ends with a period. You can hear ending punctuation. A sentence ending in a period sounds even and somewhat monotone.

Now read this sentence, with a questioning sound:
Is Mary baking bread?
Show the card with the question mark and ask your students to listen for the lilt at the end of the sentence. You can hear the question mark.

Now read this with excitement:
Mary is burning the bread!
Hold up the exclamation point card. Ask the students how they can tell the sentence needs an exclamation point.

Now it is time to play the game:

You read a sentence. At the end of each sentence, pause and let your children hold up the index card that they think belongs at the end of the sentence. Since they are sitting side-by-side, they will not be able to see each other’s cards easily. Once they have displayed their cards to you, if there is an error, ask one of the students, “Why did you choose that one?” By defending their decision, the child with the error will usually understand and change cards.

Here’s some sentences to get you started. You’ll think of more fun sentences to use as you go along. You read the sentence, Mom, and then hold up the appropriate punctuation card.

1. Ouch! I stubbed my toe!

2. Today is Tuesday.

3. I love to go to the beach!

4. Are you sleeping?

5. The paper is on the table.

6. Are you finished yet?

7. It’s my birthday!

8. When is dinner?

9. I don’t know.

10. I hope we have ice cream!

Now try making up a little story:

One day Jane and Peter went into their backyard.  (pause)
(Children hold up their cards with periods [.] on them)
Their rabbit cage was unlocked and their bunny was gone! (pause)
(Children hold up their exclamation mark [!]  cards. Ask one of the children “Why?” Child replies, “Because it shows excitement or danger!”)
The children ran around the yard looking for their bunny. (pause)
(Children hold up their period [.]  cards.)
Where could it have gone?  (pause)
(Children hold up their cards with question marks [?]  on them.)
Suddenly, Peter felt something fuzzy rubbing on his leg! (pause)
(Children hold up their cards with exclamation marks  [!]  on them.)
Hurrah! (pause)
(Children hold up their cards with exclamation marks [!] on them.)
Now, how did Fluffy ever get that cage open? (pause)
(Children hold up their cards with question marks [?] on them.)

A quick round at the beginning of school time will make your children practically geniuses when it comes to punctuating a sentence. You can increase the difficulty quickly by requiring them to hold up 2 cards per sentence.

After your kids have mastered this game, add additional punctuation mark cards, and explain their use to your children. 

Try this:

Add a hyphen mark card [-], which is used in words that are linked together, specifically numbers, such as thirty-four. Also use a hyphen to join words that act together to describe the noun, such as one-way street, well-known person, chocolate-covered raisins, when the describing words come right before a noun.

I am twenty-one.
(Children hold up both the hyphen card  [-].)

Are you eating a raspberry-filled doughnut?
(Use a hyphen [-] and a question mark[?].

Say this one with drama:
The thief stole my gold-plated trophy!
(Use a hyphen [-] and exclamation point[!])

Let’s add a capitalization game!

Write one word from the list below on an index card, all in lower case letters. Stack the cards face down in a pile. Take turns drawing a card, reading the word and deciding if it needs to start with a capital letter. If so, the player can keep the card, adding each card to his column as the game progresses. Cards that contain a word not requiring a capital letter are discarded face down next to the draw pile. The winner is the player with the most words needing capital letters. (Actually the winner is every child who learns capitalization and every mother who can teach it in a fun way that children can remember!)
Here are the words to write on index cards, using all lower case letters, so your child has to decide whether or not the word should be capitalized.
sally (use your child’s name)*
united states*
cocker spaniel*
los angeles*
daily herald*
kleenex* (it is a brand name, so it is capitalized normally)
…add more words of  your own.

To your punctuation success!


May I recommend:


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