English and Language arts

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:


Writing in My Homeschool

Editor in Chief

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Memorizing Magic

Louisa and kitten

Louisa and her kitten “Nimbus”

If there is one thing in my homeschool that I am very thankful we’ve done over the years, it is “memory work”. It seems as a natural part of conversation, one of my children mentions a poem they have learned that pertains to the topic we are discussing. For example, today we were talking about prayers that don’t seem to get answered, when Ammon said, “That reminds me of a poem,” and he went on to spontaneously recite, “God Answers Prayers”. It can bring tears to my eyes to hear my teenage boy bring forth from his memory such beautiful words and profound truths that he has learned and stored from years of memorizing.

When do you begin to add memorizing into your child’s life? I start when children are about 4 years old, teaching them a very simple 2 line rhyme or scripture verse. Poems are much easier to learn because the rhyming words help out. I type the poem and print it in large font and add the page to their Memory Notebook (just a 3 ring binder). I have young ones draw a picture on the poem page, so they can remember more easily. Every morning in homeschool, I go over the poem together with my child, helping him to learn faster. This only takes a few minutes, but it is almost magic what a few minutes a day can do, year after year after year.

Poems for Memorization is one of my favorite books to use for providing poems for children because it is organized by grade level and has wholesome, old-fashioned poems.  I have gleaned many poems out of the Pathway Readers also.


Pathway Readers

Once a child is reading, memorizing can go even faster and more independently. I put “Memory Work” as an item on their daily school assignments. When I print out a copy for their Memory Notebook, I also print a couple of extra copies: one for the bathroom wall, and one for the wall next to the chin-up bar. It is amazing how fast a poem can be learned from just reading it over a few times per day. The copy by the chin-up bar works very well because facts can be more easily learned when a child incorporates big muscle movement while learning. So my kids swing and memorize, and benefit from both.

If your children are all on a similar level, the whole family can learn the same poem, but I have found it works better to have a unique poem for each. For one thing, it prevents the other children from piping in when a child is reciting and forgets a line! I usually choose the poems when they are young, but I have found the children often wanting to learn certain poems that their siblings have learned and recited. As children get older, I let them choose from 3 poems that I have selected. By the time they are 12 or 13, they are selecting good quality poems on their own from the books I have.

Here’s our schedule:
Monday: every child gets a new memory verse or poem to learn and reads it through a few times
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: we work on the poem (or just 1 or 2 stanzas if it is long)
Friday: the children recite the poems to the whole group during homeschool, while I follow along in their Memory Notebook, underlining words that need to be worked on. It is a joy to listen to them! Generally they pass off their poem on Friday, but if it is long or they haven’t got it down, we may extend it one more week.

Best of all, these poems and scriptures stick with them, and provide comfort, truth, hope, courage, understanding and a host of other virtues. By the time they become teens, they enjoy memorizing long poems. My teens have wanted to learn long pieces of their choice, such as “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” and the “Gettysburg Address”, which they have recited to entertain and inspire at events, such as a 4th of July program.

I hope you enjoy the magic of memorization in your home. It will bless your children forever!

Here is one of our favorite poems to get you started:


If you have hard work to do,
Do it now.

Today the skies are clear and blue,
Tomorrow clouds may come in view,
Yesterday is not for you;
Do it now.

spring-641994_1280If you have a song to sing
Sing it now.
Let the notes of gladness ring
Clear as song of bird in Spring,
Let every day some music bring;
Sing it now.

If you have kind words to say,
Say them now.
Tomorrow may not come your way,
Do a kindness while you may,
Loved ones will not always stay;
Say them now.

If you have a smile to show,
Show it now.
Make hearts happy—roses grow,
Let the friends around you know
The love you have before they go;
Show it now.

                    -Charles R. Skinner


May I recommend:

A Moment for Memorization

Wisdom from Jefferson

Poems for Memorization

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