Make Grammar a Laughing Matter August 18 2009

teaching-kids-to-writeAs a teacher, getting your students excited about grammar is likely to be one of the bigger challenges you will face.

This is, in part, because it has developed an awful (if not undeserved) reputation over the years for being tedious and boring.

But despite our preconceived notions on the subject, we all know that grammar is essential to students' success on standardized tests and college entrance exams.

Fortunately, teaching and learning grammar no longer needs to be the excruciating experience it has been in decades past. In fact, newer research shows that the more creative and varied we get with our methods of teaching grammar, the more likely our students are to have an active understanding of what grammar is, and be able to use the rules they know in context.

Read on to discover several ideas for English grammar exercises that will keep your students engaged without boring them to tears!

Make Kids Laugh with Grammar

One of the best ways to bring a little humor into the classroom is through the art of storytelling. This method has the advantage of not only giving your lesson a fun, light-hearted feel, but also providing students information through a medium with which they already have many positive associations.

Try inventing a character (or have your students invent one) and use that character's actions to demonstrate verb tenses, plural nouns, etc. The more off the wall your character seems, the more likely it is to stick in a student's memory.

Or, use a puppet (or a set of puppets) to "act out" various grammar concepts. This can be especially useful for learning verb tenses and prepositions.

There are also many book series out there that are designed to teach grammar but that read like traditional picture books. The Grammar Tales Box Set, for example, includes 10 full-color read-aloud stories which teach parts of speech, punctuation, nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, capitalization, sentence structure, and proofreading, all via engaging, funny stories. Another is the Words are CATegorical series.

Turn Grammar into a Game

By incorporating games into your lesson plan, your students will not only stop dreading grammar lessons, but they'll actually look forward to them.

Board games, such as Go to Press! A Grammar Game, are sure to be a big hit with young students, and will have them giggling too. In this unique game, students try to create a complete newspaper by moving from department to department (such as entertainment, sports, weather, etc.) finding and correcting errors in the headlines. The goal is to be the first player to return to the boss's office and say, "Go to press!"

If you don't have access to board games, there are still a number of activities you can have students participate in. Create a crossword puzzle and use the clues to get students to practice critical thinking skills about the grammar lesson of your choice. Or, try playing a game of hangman to get students focused on adjectives.

Make Grammar Something to Sing About

Children love to sing, and singing can certainly be used to teach English grammar. One way to do this is to sing out the words to common songs or rhymes they already know, and have students point out certain focal points.

Take the following, for example:

“I've been working on the railroad, all the live long day
I've been working on the railroad, just to pass the time away
Can't you hear the whistle blowing, rise up so early in the morning
Can't you hear the captain shouting, Dinah blow your horn"

What verb tenses are used in this song? Where are the nouns? Are the nouns singular or plural? What about prepositions or apostrophe use?

Getting Physical with Grammar

Children learn best by doing. Show your students the correlation between grammar and the activities they do everyday. Taking them out to the playground and having them jump rope, run, or play ball to demonstrate the importance of verbs (or nouns, adjectives, or prepositions) is much more likely to get your point across than discussing these same concepts while your children listen quietly from their desks.

Another major advantage of getting your students engaged in physical activity is that it breaks up the monotony of classroom learning, and helps reinvigorate them; especially important if you notice they are getting restless or bored.

Use the Board

Even during more traditional lesson plans, there are still ways to allow for student participation and make learning grammar fun. Many people, for instance, have had great results with using diagrams, on a whiteboard or chalkboard.

In her article "A Creative Way to Teach English," Janet Kay Blaylock suggests you begin by drawing a large circle in the middle of the board. Then draw several lines in different directions from the center circle leading to smaller circles. From there, the diagram can be used to demonstrate numerous grammar concepts.

You might put a common prefix or suffix in the center circle, for instance, and then ask students to think of words that go with that prefix or suffix to create new words. You can also try this with compound words, common nouns, pronouns, etc.

Also, try using word magnets or other sentence building materials, such as those found in Story Maker magnetic Poetry Kit. This particular set includes 200 color-coded word magnets with different colors for verbs, adjectives, and nouns. Have the children create their own sentences and then explain what they've done.

Take Grammar Learning Online

Today, there are many high quality learning-based websites designed to making the teaching and learning of English grammar easier. Just go to a search engine and type in the key words "English grammar exercises" or "English grammar" and you are bound to find several.

Sites such as this ESL site on AOL randomly generate sentences that focus on specific areas such as verb tenses, subjects, verbs, objects, punctuation, etc. This is also a good resource for teachers, as they can use the grammar rules portion of the site to review their own knowledge before a particular lesson.

While teaching grammar most certainly has its challenges, making your lessons fun need not be one of them. With a little creative thinking, grammar can truly become something to sing about!

~by Stefanie Boucher