Elementary Language Arts Activities for Vocabulary, Writing & Punctuation

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Listening, speaking, reading and writing compose the basics of the language arts curriculum. Attitudes and skills related to language develop naturally, in an environment where children are immersed in literature, feel free to take risks, and take part in meaningful activities. Students enjoy language arts activities primary level, by participation in many different directions. In this article you will find suggestions and ideas for some areas of the language arts program. The importance of language arts at the primary level cannot be overstated.

Vocabulary Development

Vocabulary development involves an awareness of words and comprehension. Students increase their oral vocabularies as they see and hear words in meaningful context.

Introduce students to books or stories involving a telephone:

Fire! Fire! by Gail Gibbons. An excellent book to show the telephone as an important link; plus use it as an introduction to a non-fiction book.

Curious George by H.A.Rey. When George saw the man in the yellow hat telephoning the zoo, he was curious and just had to use the telephone too - with disastrous results.

Moira’s Birthday by Robert Munsch. After Moira had invited all the children from Grades 1 to 6 and Kindergarten to her birthday party, she used the telephone to order food.

Comprehension activities:

How was the phone used in the story? Discuss how the telephone can be a very useful tool. Talk about good telephone manners and behavior. Why should you never play around on the telephone? What should you say if you reach a wrong number? (Ask for volunteers to demonstrate) Ask students to tell about an experience they have had whilst using the telephone.

On chart paper, print telephone vocabulary: telephone, busy signal, cell phone, answering machine, messages, chat, conversation, numbers, operator.

Divide the students into pairs. One student plays the part of a parent and the other himself. Ask them to explain to the parent where they are, and ask if it is all right to stay over for supper. Change roles.

Look at a telephone directory and discover how it is organized (alphabetically). Look at the list of telephone words and ask students to arrange them in alphabetical order.

Writing Activities

A student’s personal writing can be guided, through planned shared writing. In shared writing, the teacher models the writing act and, through questions, out-loud thinking, and identification of sources to help (word lists, dictionaries, other students) stimulates students' interests in ways, to begin their personal writing. Students actively participate, with suggestions for content and structure of the writing (sentences, questions, spelling).

Introduce a book or story about a lost button such as :

Corduroy by Don Freeman. The story of a forlorn bear in a store who has lost a button.

The Button Box by Margarette S.Reid. An imaginative little boy explores the treasures in his grandmother’s button box.

A Lost Button from Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel. Toad and Frog are out walking, but Toad has lost a button and cannot enjoy his walk.

Provide students with a variety of buttons. Have each student choose a button, hide it in their pocket, and tell something about it. Record their descriptions on a chart.

Invite students to create a large paper shirt and add a pocket to it. Decorate with crayons or markers. On a separate pocket-shaped paper ask the students to write about a favorite button or a button that they lost. This piece of writing will fit into the pocket on the shirt. Students will record ideas in many ways, and many levels of development. It may be a sentence dictated by the student and written by the teacher. It could be a sentence copied, or used as a pattern e.g. I like little white buttons. Single words may be used e.g. shiny round, or it may be a button story written entirely by the student.

Use observation of the students during this shared writing time, talk to them during the writing activity, and then invite them to present and discuss their completed pockets and button stories.


Knowing the importance of language arts at primary level, and the importance of making learning fun, teachers need to focus on activities that are engaging.

Punctuation does not have to be a boring dictated test paper. Here are a few activities that make those little marks exciting. One of the favorite is the use of … (or dot dot dot ) Choose a book that has lots of these “something’s coming” moments, and exaggerate with your voice and big dramatic pause. Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin has examples of this.

Look at the book The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle. In it you will find many examples of quotation marks. Invite your students to choose a partner and have a conversation like the Grouchy Ladybug does with other insects. Then ask the students to write the conversation using quotation marks. Provide puppets and encourage students to write the script for a puppet play, using quotation marks for each puppet’s words.

Young students love the exclamation mark! Look for examples in their favorite stories and show them, with your voice and facial expression, the surprise or drama indicated by the exclamation mark. Ask students to help you make a list of phrases that need an exclamation mark. Invite them to team up in pairs and tell each other things, showing with their voices that it is an " exclaiming " sentence!

Read a paragraph from a story that is known to the students, but do not stop until you run out of breath. This will demonstrate how important punctuation is.


The importance of language arts at primary level cannot be overstated. The primary functions of language arts activities are to provide a base for learning across the curriculum. Teachers are responsible for developing a range of instructional strategies, addressing different student needs, and bringing a variety of approaches to learning skills. The development of listening and speaking skills is aided by engaging students in literature, drama and poetry activities. Students learn by taking an active part in learning.