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:
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. 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:
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 inflection:
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:
Mom reads a sentence, and the kids simultaneously hold up the correct card, high in the air, facing Mom. It works best if they cannot see each other’s cards. Mom takes a look at their cards and then holds up her correct card. Everyone whose card matches Mom’s correct card gets a token (bean, button, paper clip, whatever). After everyone has played to their fill, count up tokens and see who is the winner. The winner now gets to make up the sentences.
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!
After several rounds of this game, add additional punctuation mark cards, and explain their use to your children. 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.
Add the hyphen mark, 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 today!
Hold up first the hyphen card and then the exclamation point card.
Are you eating a raspberry-filled doughnut?
Use a hyphen and a question mark.
How about this one (say it with drama!)
The thief stole my gold-plated statue!
Use a hyphen and exclamation point.
To your punctuation success!