“Grammar? Argh!” Have your children ever moaned those words? Completing endless pages of grammar exercises often elicits that very response. Direct, sequential grammar instruction is important for helping students to understand sentence structure (and thereby to improve as readers and writers), but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun with grammar!
All I Touch and Do
Even very young children can start learning about nouns, action verbs, subjects, and predicates. And don’t be afraid to use those words. If they can name dinosaurs, they can use correct grammar terminology!
Tell your child that everything he can touch is a noun and everything he can do is a verb. (Note that lots of things we can’t touch are nouns also, and there are other kinds of verbs, but we’re just introducing these concepts for now.) Throughout the day, when your child touches his sister, a cup, a book, the dog, or his shoes, have him name those items and identify them as nouns. Write each of these nouns on a note card (or allow your child to write them himself if he is able).
When your child sits, reads, climbs, runs, or eats, have her name those actions and identify them as verbs. Write each of these verbs on a note card as well. Later, mix all of the noun and verb note cards together and ask your child to sort them into a noun pile and a verb pile. Then, practice combining subjects and predicates by selecting a noun and putting it together with a verb. For example, dog runs. Finally, invite your child to expand that subject and predicate into a sentence. For example, My dog runs in the yard. In addition to introducing students to nouns, verbs, and basic sentence structure, this activity allows them to practice reading the words, writing the words, and creating complete sentences.
Elementary and middle school students love word bags. First, go through junk mail or old magazines, and look for big, colorful words to cut out. Be sure words represent all parts of speech, and cut out some punctuation marks also. Glue the words onto colored paper. Use a variety of different colors, but don’t glue all the same parts of speech onto the same color! If you’re going to laminate your words, use copy paper. If not, use cardstock. Cut apart the words, and put them in a box or bag. After letting your child explore the words, try some of these hands-on activities to help your children improve their grammar and writing skills, practice reading, and see that words can be fun.
- Word Sorting: Have children put the words into categories such as nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, etc.
- Sentence Building: Invite students to use the words to make sentences, paying attention to subject/verb agreement, pronoun usage, etc.
- Formula Sentences: Ask students to use words from the box/bag to create sentences that follow specific formulas.
o Ex: article, adjective, noun, verb (The small cat hid.)
o Ex: pronoun, verb, plural noun (She likes cookies.)
o Ex: proper noun, verb, article, adjective, noun (Emma washed the dirty dishes.)
o Ex: helping verb, pronoun, action verb, noun, preposition, possessive adjective, noun (Will you help Ricky with his project?)
- Challenge your child to pull out a word and use it in as many different ways as possible. For example, paper could be used as a noun, a verb, or an adjective.
Though high school students also enjoy and benefit from word bags, variety is important! This activity for middle and high school students is more “scholarly” but still fun. As your child is reading, ask her to collect a few sentences she really likes and write each one at the top of a piece of paper. Then, ask her to analyze these “mentor sentences” grammatically and structurally to determine what makes them great.
Students who have a working understanding of grammar and rhetorical devices may identify specific elements like exciting verbs, participial phrases, alliteration, or anaphora. If students don’t have names for the elements, that’s okay. Let them do a little research and try to figure out what the author’s tools are actually called. Then they can use these same techniques to write equally great sentences of their own. Seeing how they can incorporate some of these tools gets students excited about improving their own writing. I recommend the high schooler keep a notebook of favorite sentences and helpful devices to refer to on a regular basis.
Grammar can—and should—be fun but should always be relevant so kids view it as a helpful tool rather than as a chore! To make grammar concepts relevant, be sure you regularly connect them to writing tasks like the ones described in these activities.
Copyright 2019, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.