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Swim around sentences

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By Kay Clifford — Early Years Leader and adult tutor

This game, for up to four players, is intended to encourage children to think about the punctuation marks . , and ?. The object of the game is to move around the ocean track, stopping on sentences according to the throw of the dice. Players have to select the correct punctuation mark from the centre pool for the sentence they have landed on.


Before playing

  • Cut out (and ideally laminate) the punctuation cards on the activity sheet below. Place them in the pool in the centre of the game board. (You could add a paper clip to each punctuation card and make some magnetic fishing rods so that the children can ‘fish’ for the punctuation.)
  • Remind the children of the three types of punctuation they will need to know about for this game -

question marks,


and full stops.

Discuss what type of words a question sentence will begin with. Talk about sentences with lists in them that will require commas. Remind the children that statements end with full stops.

  • Each player will need a counter and a dice will also be required.
  • Before play, an adult should read through some of the sentences with the group so that they become more familiar with some of the vocabulary.

Previous learning

Children should know how to: form simple sentences and should have begun to use punctuation; read some HF words; use phonic knowledge to make phonetically plausible attempts at more complex words.

Key learning outcomes:

Year 1

  • To recognise automatically familiar HF words;
  • To apply phonic knowledge to read unfamiliar words that are not completely decodable;
  • To use full stops.

Year 2

  • To know how to tackle words that are not completely decodable;
  • To use question marks, and use commas to separate items in a list.

Playing the game

  • Decide who will go first by either rolling the dice for the highest number or choosing the child whose name is alphabetically first.
  • Player 1 starts by placing his/her counter on START. They roll the dice and count that number of spaces on the track (in a clockwise direction) but do not yet move their counter.
  • They read the sentence selected, and must decide which punctuation mark is required. He/she selects the punctuation they think is needed from the centre pool.
  • If the rest of the group agrees it is correct, the player can move their counter onto that sentence space on the track. Play then passes on to the next player.
  • If the rest of the group think that the wrong punctuation has been selected, the player must put the card back in the centre and does not move their counter.
  • The next player then rolls the dice and repeats the steps above.
  • The winner is the first player to pass FINISH.

Back issue

For another great punctuation game, but with a sport theme, see Literacy Time Years 1 and 2, May 2006, No 24 – Punctuation Race. Players race down the lanes on the running track, making up sentences about sport and adding the correct punctuation marks. The accompanying activity sheet is available to download here.


Make it possible to win a bonus score: if a player can think of their own sentence with the same punctuation as the sentence they have landed on, they can move on 2 extra spaces.

Follow-up activities

  • Ask the children to write out the sentences from the game board using the correct punctuation.
  • Challenge the children to find out the answers to the questions on the track by using non-fiction books or websites.
  • Ask the children to create their own ocean game track using their own facts about underwater creatures.
  • Use the statements on the track to make up questions for their friends to answer – eg, What do dolphins eat?.



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