Repetitio est mater studiorum. That’s Latin for “repetition is the mother of studies.” Drills have always been a huge part of learning grammar because even the most task-based or communicative approaches to language learning still involve an element of memorization. But let’s face it—drills are not very fun. The trick, then, is to get the students to practice their grammar with engaging activities that provide repetition, but are also more fun and creative than the traditional worksheets. Here are some effective and fun grammar activities for elementary students.
General Principles of Teaching Grammar: The PPP Method
Before you assign your students a grammar activity, it’s important to give the lesson some context. One popular method of teaching is the PPP, or 3P method: Presentation, Practice, and Production. Once you have this down, it becomes a powerful tool for planning a lesson, as it encourages learning by experimentation.
First, give your students a few examples relating to the grammar device they will be learning about. Write down or type out a story (you can come up with your own or use a short story from literature) and tell your class the story verbally with the typed out sentences up on your projector. If you are teaching about commas, emphasize the “pause” that the comma represents and point to it while you read aloud. The idea is to have your students relate how grammar sounds verbally and how it looks when written.
Once they have a few examples in their heads, your students can have a turn at working with grammar. You can ask some questions, spark a discussion or have them take turns saying something that uses the learned grammar. For example, you can ask them what their favorite animal is. Your students will most likely create a list of what they like about the animal and naturally use comma separation between characteristics. We suggest practicing verbally first because, for most students, it is less pressure than writing out sentences.
Once you feel that your students have a grasp of the concept, it’s time to step back and let them try it out for themselves. During this phase, you will give your students an activity where they will use grammar on their own. For the production phase, you can use worksheets or have your students take part in one of the activities we have provided below.
Now, let’s move onto what brought you to this blog in the first place, fun activities that help teach grammar to your young students.
Fun Grammar Activities for Elementary Students That will Maximize Retention
Activity #1: Use sentence diagramming to build compound and complex sentences with index cards. Take what you learned and tell me about a home you are building using descriptive complex and compound sentences.
Diagramming sentences hit its peak in schools after late 18th century educators Reed and Kellogg released their book, Higher Lessons in English. In it, they maintained that elementary students could learn sentence structure better if the components of a sentence were broken down and their relationships were visually represented.
Do sentence diagrams still have a role in today’s Common Core-based curriculum? It’s not mentioned explicitly in The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts, but, with some creative application, it can be a fun activity for students who are still learning the parts of speech and how they build a sentence.
This activity is ideal for 3rd, 4th and 5th-grade students because it helps them learn how to put together compound and complex sentences piece by piece.
Divide the class into groups of five and give each group a sentence. Have your students write down their sentence using one card per word and tell them what punctuation or grammar device should be in the sentence. Have your students stick the notecards to their chests, and, if floor space allows, lie down and make a sentence diagram with their bodies.
Activity #2: Create a group story that takes place in the past, present or future and maintain the tense throughout the story.
Getting your students to use tenses consistently requires lots of practice and repetition. Inject some energy and creativity into learning how tenses work by having them tell a shared story and maintain the tense throughout the story.
You can begin your lesson by discussing tenses and how they work throughout literature. Show your students stories that use past, present and future tenses.
- For past tense, read them a short fairy tale that starts with “Once upon a time…”
- For present tense, it is great to use literature that has a narrator who follows the characters through the story. The first sentence of Jack Wakes Up is, “Jack walks into a diner just south of Japantown.”
- For future tense, read a few pages from Oh the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss.
Activity #3: Create preposition posters and get familiar with a preposition. Use your knowledge of prepositions to give me directions to your favorite place on the playground.
Prepositions are funny little words that are sprinkled throughout sentences, and follow a hundred different rules and often refer to a direction, place, or time.
A good way to get your students to remember how these words work is to have them write them down. As you may already know, research shows that writing things down by hand is more effective for learning, compared to notes taken using a keyboard. Of course, you can have your students take traditional notes in their notebooks, but why not make it more fun and create colorful posters that you can hang up as a reminder of how prepositions operate.
Start by having a short lesson on how prepositions work and a few common words used in prepositional phrases. Common prepositional words include:
Next, have your students create a poster that uses some of these words in prepositional phrases and add an illustration to their prepositional phrase. For example, your students could write something like “Our car drove over a large hill.” and add that illustration to the poster with the preposition OVER written above their illustration. Hang these posters up as a way to jog your students’ memories when they have trouble with prepositional usage.
The elementary years are crucial in developing grammar and language, making these experiences both fun and memorable will go a long way as your students progress into junior high, highschool and beyond. By making all these lessons memorable with posters, classbooks and stories, you ensure that your students can learn to be creative, communicative and eager in their writing.
Our online teacher’s lounge is an excellent place for you to find more suggestions on ways to improve your students’ writing. Head over to sign up and receive a free classbook publishing kit to make a special memory for your class.