If you ask students which subject is their favorite, they will say reading, math, art…even lunch! You almost never hear grammar, but this important subject can be fun! Find out by learning how to teach grammar to elementary students.
What Is Grammar?
Grammar is essentially correct speaking and writing. Language is made up of words, but those words must be organized and put together according to certain rules and conventions. These rules are mastered in grammar.
Teaching grammar is often shelved in order to emphasize creativity and self-expression. Ideas are certainly important, but it is equally important to know how to clearly express those ideas. Grammar helps us do that.
You can’t win a game of soccer or basketball unless you know the rules of the game. In the same way, you can’t write or speak clearly and persuasively unless you follow the rules of language.
How to Teach Grammar to Elementary Students
Grammar is actually simple to teach and learn if you lay a firm foundation in elementary school. Here’s what you do:
Memorize the Parts of Speech
The English language has only 8 parts of speech. That’s it. Every single word in our language is either a noun, pronoun, verb, adverb, conjunction, interjection, preposition, or adjective. Teach the names and definitions of these words. Memorization is key! Start with nouns and proceed from there.
Understand the Sentence
The sentence is the basic unit of thought. Teach the five components of a sentence:
- Starts with a capital letter
- Ends with a punctuation mark
- Has a subject
- Has a verb
- Makes complete sense
Knowing the 5 parts of the sentence is extremely helpful for students. When you ask them to “Write in complete sentences,” this grammar knowledge will help them understand exactly what you mean.
Use All the Senses
Don’t limit grammar study to one sense; use visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading-writing activities to learn grammar. Make the study of language as interactive as possible.
Do a Grammar Check
Embed grammar in all writing activities. Ask your students to check their work. Are they beginning each sentence with a capital letter and ending each one with a punctuation mark? Did they put commas after items in a series? Are they capitalizing the pronoun I and any proper nouns (names)? By asking questions, you can show them how to check their own work.
Fun Activities for Teaching Grammar
If you want to know how to teach grammar effectively, the secret is to make it fun and interactive. Try some of these activities.
Action Verb Game
One of the types of verbs is action verbs. You can say, “Verbs are words that show action. I am going to call out an action verb, and I want you to act it out.” Kids will have fun jumping, whispering, laughing, spinning, sitting, barking, and stretching on command. You can also play versions of charades or Simon Says to practice action verbs.
I’m Thinking of a Noun Game
Nouns are the names of persons, places, things, or ideas. You can practice naming nouns with riddles or something like 20 Questions. For example, “I’m thinking of a noun that names an animal with stripes.” Then the student guesses the noun (tiger, zebra, cat, badger, etc.).
Copywork is an effective way to teach grammar; it involves having students copy model sentences. To make this interesting, you can choose engaging sentences to copy, or you can have students copy the sentences with different colors. Print a sentence with the nouns in red and have the students copy it in color. Or have the students copy the same short sentence in various colors of the rainbow. If they copy the same sentence in a different color each day of the week, they will end up with a rainbow!
Practice the concept of subjects and predicates by making a subject-predicate match-up game. Write some subjects on cards like “The greedy king” or “The lovable antelope” or “The tiny baby.” Then write predicates on cards of a different color: “slept on a mountain of gold” or “nibbled the grass” or “needed a diaper change.” Then have fun putting the subjects and predicates together to create sensible or wacky sentences!
Dictation is also a great way to teach grammar. Can the student hear a sentence and then write it down with correct grammar? Rather than making this like a spelling test, read a short but engaging story. Then dictate a couple of sentences from the story afterward. For example, if you read “The Three Billy Goats Gruff,” dictate a line of the troll (e.g., “Who is that on my bridge?”) using your best troll voice.
Part of Speech Basketball
Understanding grammar means knowing how words are categorized. You have the 8 parts of speech, 4 kinds of verbs, common and proper nouns, etc. Any time you want to practice distinguishing words one from another, turn it into a basketball game. Label two bins or baskets with “common” or “proper” (or whatever you are working on) and show the student a card with a word on it. If the word is a common noun, throw a crumpled paper ball in the “common” basket. This kinesthetic game is a fun way to practice categorizing words.
Teaching Grammar to Elementary Students
Grammar is an important subject, and teaching it early sets your kids on the path toward success in speaking and writing. Turn grammar into the “fun subject” with these tips and activities for elementary students.