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How to Teach English Grammar to Children

Sharilee has a Bachelor of Education from the University of Calgary. She loves using creative teaching methods to reach her students.

Whole Language Versus Phonics

With the implementation of the Common Core State Standards across much of the United States, teaching grammar has become even more of a focus for teachers in American classrooms.

Here in Canada, it is less clear-cut, but we all agree that grammar is important. How do we present parts of speech, punctuation and sentence structure it in a way that is both fun and effective?

Through the years, theorists have debated over the effectiveness of whole language versus phonics, but the best teachers use a combination of both. Here are some ideas for teaching English grammar to children that go beyond plunking down repetitive worksheets in front of them, and drilling it into their heads.


Grammar Across the Curriculum

Incorporate grammar into your science class!

Incorporate grammar into your science class!

Weave it into your curriculum

First of all, when teaching grammar to children, weave it into your curriculum. In other words, don't think of it as a separate subject, set apart from the rest of your day.

Instead, think of ways to apply grammatical principles within other things that you are teaching. Why should you do this? Weave it into the curriculum because that is how that is how grammar appears in real life. Grammar is woven into how we speak, read and listen. We don't notice grammar uniess it is bad.

Here are some ways to weave grammar into your curriculum:

  • Do a regular "focus on grammar" using excerpts from the book or story you are reading as a class. You can start this process this orally, during class, and then reinforce it by writing sentences from the pieces on the board, or on a sheet. Ask students to find an assigned part of speech, such as proper noun, verb or pronoun, from the excerpts.
  • Do some grammar in different subject areas. This will make it more interesting for the students and show them how learning fits together. It will also give you access to some interesting vocabulary which will spice up your grammar lessons.

Grammar Games Work

Games like "teapot" reinforce grammar concepts.

Games like "teapot" reinforce grammar concepts.

Use Grammar-Based Games and Activities

One of the best ways to learn things that are a bit dry, is to play games and get kids active. Here are some ideas for grammar games and activities:

  • Do sentence diagramming in teams. Break your class up into teams of 3-6 students each. Give each group a set of 1- 5 sentences, broken down into individual words. The team's job is to put the sentences together as quickly as they can. To make it a little easier on them, you may wish to add a few extra words in. This is fun for the students because it's hands-on and it makes them think about how words go together. And be careful ... there may be more than one correct answer!
  • For more difficult parts of speech, have a "part of the day." For example, maybe the "part of the day" is an adverb. Then, every time someone is caught using an adverb, or catches someone else using an adverb, they get a point, or a prize, depending on what kind of reward system you like to use in your classroom. The point of this exercise is to train kids to recognize parts of speech on their own.
  • Do the teapot game. The "teapot" game substitutes the word teapot (or other code word) for another word. There are two people performing the improv. One of the improv partner leaves the room and the rest of the class, or the teacher tells the improv partner what word she is replacing with teapot. The other partner then comes back and the two have a conversation, with the first partner using using the code word in a conversation and the other partner trying to guess what the code word is. Doing this type of game reinforces the idea that words are used in context and we can often guess a word by the way it is used in a sentence.
  • To teach punctuation, have students do a short improv, using all of the punctuation marks that they need, aloud. You can have them work in in pairs, all speaking at once, or have them take turns at the front of the class. Doing this exercise will make them think out their punctuation in a different way.

Have Kids Read Each Others' Work

Have students work together to correct each other's grammar.

Have students work together to correct each other's grammar.

Use Their Own Work

The next idea is use their own work to teach them. I like this idea because it comes directly from them. Here are some ways to use this method:

  • Use student writing to demonstrate grammar points that you are trying to make. You can do this by copying sentences from student's essays and then using them for whole class teaching on the white board or overhead.
  • Use student mistakes to demonstrate grammar errors, in a fun, non-judgmental way. Using examples of errors found in student essays, stories or other assignments, create some "find the error" sheets. Write the incorrect sentences on the board or overhead, and have students call out the mistakes. Tell them that almost everyone had some mess-up's and that's okay! And if you don't find many errors, it would also be fun to put some good sentences in, from their work, but add the errors in! Of course, let them know that you did this, so they don't wonder what happened.
  • Use a writers workshop approach to have students correct and appreciate each other's written work. This works by placing students in groups of 2-6 students. Each student is given enough copies of their written piece to pass around to everyone. Then, students read each other's work and offer criticism and praise. For the grammar part, you may choose to have students check for certain grammatical points one at a time. As they become more adept at their grammar, they may do a global check of all the grammar at once.

Grammar Teaching Resource

  • Teaching Articles by prairieprincess
    An index of all the articles on teaching by prairieprincess. From inspiration for teaching to practical tips to planning a field trip: check out this packet of resources.
  • The Top Ten Best Things About Being a Teacher
    What is the best thing about being a teacher? No, it's not the summer holidays, although those are definitely a good benefit. Light bulb moments, relationships and the ability to learn every day, and more. These are the ten best things about being a
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Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on March 10, 2017:

Thanks so much for the comment, @calvinaustins. I am glad you found it useful.

Calvin from UK on June 08, 2016:

Very useful detailing...

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on July 08, 2015:

@liam, thank you so much for the comment. And I completely agree that games are a very effective tool for learning language. Take care, and sorry for the long delay in answering.

Elsie Hagley from New Zealand on June 05, 2015:

Interesting article. I think I should go back to school, I'm terrible with grammar, sometimes I think I was never taught it back in the 1940's, as I get lost many times when trying to understand it.

I see there is a add on your hub for "Instant Grammar Checker" I will download it and see if it can help me.

Hope you are having a great day in Canada.

liamhubpages on January 07, 2015:

Great advice, I believe that language learning is best through games.

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on June 24, 2013:

@peachpurple, he is only six years old, and I am confident that he will get it in time. Thanks for the comment!

@Will, nice to hear from a fellow teacher! That's nice to hear that you use a fun approach for your language learners. Have a good day!

William Lake from Siem Reap, Cambodia on June 14, 2013:

A few good suggestions here. I teach ESL and often use games and other fun activities in all my classes when teaching young learners, especially something as potentially as boring as English Grammar!

peachy from Home Sweet Home on June 11, 2013:

i teach my 6 year old son english, maths and science at home. The rest of the subjects are taught in school. He gets 100 for english but his grammar is out. He loves to use his own way for writing composition and grammar too. How do I correct him? He insisted on using his own. My hair is falling apart! Btw he says hairs are not hairs is uncountable, isn't it?

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on July 25, 2012:

@Teaches, that is a nice way of putting it. Drawing their interest in is the goal. I learned the teapot game from my Mom but did not realize until later that it had grammar implications. Thanks for the comment and have a wonderful evening!

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on July 25, 2012:

@Seeker, you are so right! Many adults would also benefit from improving their grammar knowledge, too. In fact, in my first year of university, in my beginner's English class, our professor made us do a book on grammar and I was surprised at how much I learned. So you can always learn more. Thanks so much for the comment and the votes.

Dianna Mendez on July 24, 2012:

Good suggestions and tips that will certainly draw the interest of children in learning important English grammar. I love our teapot game because it make the learning fun. Voted up.

Helen Murphy Howell from Fife, Scotland on July 24, 2012:

What an excellent way to teach kids grammar! This would also be very useful for many adults who really want to improve their language skills for a variety of reasons. Grammar for kids and adults can seem so daunting, but when taught in the way demonstrated in your hub, they will learn to love the language and the study of it.

A very enjoyable and interesting hub + voted up!

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on July 24, 2012:

@Billy, you are so right! Grammar is that thing that kids dread. That's good that you are a grammar fanatic: as a writer, it's a necessity! I appreciate your approval on this hub, as a fellow teacher. Have an awesome day!

@Kashmir, thank you so much! I hope the article does help fellow teachers. Have a wonderful day. So nice to see you again!

Thomas Silvia from Massachusetts on July 24, 2012:

Very detailed and well written hub with all great and useful information, well done my friend !

Vote up and more !!!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 24, 2012:

Bravo Sharilee! English grammar....two words that strike fear in the hearts of so many students....and so necessary. I am a bit of a fanatic about proper grammar. Loved this hub and the suggestions contained in it.

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on July 24, 2012:

Virginia, thanks for the approval! It's nice to hear from a former elementary teacher. Yes, teaching grammar might sometimes seem like a necessary evil, right? It can be pretty dry and difficult.

Thanks so much for the great comment. Have a wonderful day!

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on July 24, 2012:

@Rhonda, I completely agree. There is something about seeing their own work that is very powerful and connecting. I am glad that you also use a peer editing process with your adult students. I think it is a powerful technique for almost any age, as long as they have learned some of the rudimentary things about reading and writing.

Thanks for coming by!

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on July 24, 2012:

Chef, thank you! I do think that adding fun to the mix really helps students learn better, and a variety of activities will help different kinds of learners pick it up.

Thanks for the comment and have a wonderful day!

Virginia Kearney from United States on July 24, 2012:

Terrific practical ideas for teaching grammar. Kids would really enjoy these activities. I hate teaching grammar, and struggled with it when I was and elementary school teacher. Now that I teach college, I still need to teach it sometimes. At this level, I find peer editing of writing is the best way. I love the fact that you use this at a younger level too. Great hub! Voted up and useful an pinned.

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on July 24, 2012:

@Catalina, I completely agree that love of the language comes first! That is something that cannot be faked and will come through from a teacher who loves reading and writing. Then, grammar is brought into that literary rich environment. Thank you so much for the insightful comment. Take care!

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on July 24, 2012:

@Kumar, you seem to do very well with your writing, in spite of it, but it's good to know as much as grammar as you can. Lack of grammar can be distracting to the reader.

@Shalini, I am so glad that you found it useful. Have a wonderful day!

Rhonda Malomet from Toronto, Canada on July 24, 2012:

Some of these techniques are effective for teaching adult learners as well! I have used other student errors and the workshop approach as well as peer editing. It's a major revelation when they look at someone else's work.

Andrew Spacey from Sheffield, UK on July 24, 2012:

I like the variety you offer in this hub - splitting the group up into smaller units, mixing written with verbal responses and introducing the idea of play and fun into what are serious subjects.

Grammar used to be so dry but you've helped it come alive. Many thanks for your effort.

shalini sharan from Delhi on July 24, 2012:

this was a really useful hub

voted up

kumar24894 from Fuck of HUBPAGES on July 24, 2012:

I myself need training for figure of speeches , LOL .

nice hub.

Sharing and voted up !

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