Who doesn’t love grammar? Well, most people as it turns out. The subject is often regarded as tedious by students, if not also by many teachers. Learning a set of rules that should govern the language you already thought you knew can be frustrating work.
Some of that comes from the subject itself, but some if it has to do with how grammar has been traditionally taught. Memorizing parts of speech and the proper rules for using each one just isn’t the most fascinating of tasks.
Educators are nothing if not creative though, and some have been working to find more innovative, entertaining, and effective ways to teach grammar to students. Here are a few ideas and resources that can help you make one of the most dreaded classroom subjects one that students actually look forward to.
Grammar mind maps can make your grammar lessons more visual. The goal of grammar mind maps is to appeal to both the left and right sides of your brain and hopefully thus enable students to learn concepts more successfully. The website GrammarMindMaps.com has a number of great examples you can employ. Just take a look at this one that explores the present simple tense as one example – it’s got colors, fun images, and examples of the different forms of the tense.
An article in the Atlantic last year made the point that sentence diagrams and memorization aren’t helping students learn in the way we want them to. Instead, the writer made the case for teaching grammar through more active writing assignments. Let students write first, and then use their writing as examples for focused grammar instruction. Authentic practice is a more powerful tool for learning effectively than any other.
This editing technique came recommended by one of our loyal readers. It’s meant to help students learn grammar rules as they go (so it works well in conjunction with #2). The idea behind it is that our language has a number of key terms (the “x words”) that play an especially important role in understanding the grammar in any sentence. By focusing on the x-words and the part they play in each sentence, you can come to better understand sentence structure and the relationships between parts of speech.
Analyzing sentence structure can become immediately more entertaining if you start with sentences that students have a reason to care about. You could take a clip from a popular TV show, children’s book, or even comic book and pull out sentences for your students to analyze. Grammar will be a little more entertaining for your students if they get to talk about the Avengers or Dora the Explorer in the process.
Why not bring a more playful physical component into your grammar lesson? Over at Busy Teacher, they recommend gathering your students into a circle for a parts-of-speech challenge. Throw a beanbag toward a student chosen at random and name a part-of-speech that they must provide an example of. If they get it right, they stay in the game. If they get it wrong they leave the circle until the next game.
Education World recommends a game of verb/adverb charades, which is just what it sounds like. Students have two stacks cards with verbs and adverbs and choose one of each. Then they act out what the two words together mean while other students guess. These are just a couple of starter ideas, but with a little creative thinking you can probably come up with more.
With games like Verbs in Space and Comma Chameleon, Sheppard Software combines fun scenarios with grammar lessons. All of the games are free, but there’s an ad-free version of the website you can pay for.
As the name suggests, ESL Games + is mostly targeted at students learning English as a second language, but some of the games help with grammar concepts useful to any student. Sentence Monkey, in particular, can help students learn different parts of speech in a playful context.
Maggie’s Earth Adventures is a set of games provided by Scholastic that explore different subject areas. You can choose from five games focused on grammar that touch on subjects like prefixes and suffixes, nouns and verbs, and punctuation.
This resource from the BBC claims to cover “English and Math for Adults.” so is more appropriate for older students. Not all of the games are focused on grammar, but many challenge the player to spot punctuation errors.
English Media Labs provides games and other interactive activities that teach kids about a long list of grammatical lessons, including tenses, adjectives and adverbs, and prepositions and conjunctions.
The Grammar Police app drops different parts of speech into a police chase scenario that will keep kids entertained while teaching them about sentence structure. It was designed by English teachers and is available on iOS devices for $0.99.
Grammar Jammers uses catchy songs, animation, and quizzes to give students lessons in the parts of speech. You can find a free version in the Apple store for iOS, as well as versions more focused on elementary and middle school specifically for $2.99.
Grammar Wonderland is an app provided by McGraw-Hill Education that allows students to play as a character moving through different settings that advances by succeeding at grammar activities. It’s available for $2.99 in both elementary and primary versions for iOS, and for free in elementary and primary versions on Android.
The Grammar Games app provides two games, Flight Take Off and Flight Landing, that cover a number of grammatical concepts, along with illustrated tutorials students can view. It’s available on iOS for $1.99.
We’ve just covered the tip of the iceberg here. If you’re interested in exploring more techniques, games, and apps that teach grammar in new ways, you can easily find far more options out there on the web. Now’s a great time to be a grammar student (and teacher).
Editor’s note: This piece was originally written by Katie Lepi and ran on November 24, 2013. A lot has changed since then, so we’ve had author Kristen Hicks update this piece with the latest techniques and innovations.