Play the Santa "Clause" Game

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Updated on May 24, 2013

Want to give your child some writing practice over the holidays? Why not play the Santa “Clause” game? This activity will have your child learning about dependent and independent clauses, not to mention the punctuation that goes in the middle. By matching Christmas clauses, she’ll get a slice of learning along with her figgy pudding!

What You Need:

  • Green and red construction paper cut into twenty 2” x 3” rectangles
  • Construction paper of a contrasting color (such as yellow or blue) cut into six 2” x 3” rectangles
  • Pen or marker


A clause is a group of words usually consisting of a subject and a predicate. A regular old sentence is a clause, but sometimes things get more complicated, because one sentence can contain more than one clause: like this one, for example. That sentence you just read contained an independent clause, a colon, and a dependent clause. An independent clause is one that can stand alone as a sentence, while a dependent clause can’t.

Semicolons (which look like ; ) link two independent clauses together. Colons (which looks like : ) link one independent clause with one dependent one. And commas? They are used when two clauses are connected by “conjunction,” such as “and,” “but, and “or.”  Ready to play?

What You Do:

Step 1 Both you and you child should each come up with ten or more clauses having to do with the holidays, and make sure that you have a mix of independent and dependent clauses, and that some contain conjunctions. For example: I want one thing this Christmas: a new bike. Mom and Dad sometime sleep in on Christmas morning, but I always wake up early. Christmas is my favorite holiday; it always seems to make everyone feel happy. Each clause should be written on its own piece of paper, but don’t include the colon or semicolon on the card. With each rectangle representing a separate paper, it should look like:

I want one thing this Christmas  a new bike
Mom and Dad sometime sleep in on Christmas morning  but I always wake up early
Christmas is my favorite holiday  it always seems to make everyone feel happy

Step 2 On the six cards of a contrasting color, label two with a comma, two with a semicolon, and two with a colon. Place them in a pile, face-down, between the two players.

Step 3 Place the “clause cards” you have created face-down between the two players, and mix them up.

Step 4 Play the clause game! To play, each player takes turns turning over one of the punctuation cards. They then must match two clause cards that might use that punctuation mark. For instance, if you draw a comma card, you first turn over one clause card. You then have three chances to turn over another clause card that works with the first and with the comma to form a sentence. Sound easy? You may have “clause” to think otherwise!

Kate Smith has been a teacher since 1997. She has taught in New York and California, with experience in all subjects and grades from 1 to 12, but the heart of her expertise lies in middle school, primarily English and Journalism. She has a B.A. in English and a Master of Science in Teaching from Fordham University.

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