10 Grammar Exercises

Grammar has become a much bigger part of the new curriculum, but many teachers are still getting to grips with how to teach it effectively.  I don't claim to be an expert, but here are a few of the ideas that I've used in my primary classroom, which seem to make the teaching of grammar a bit less dry.  I use these quick activities to recap grammar concepts and for assessment purposes.  I personally don't like stand alone grammar lessons and instead use frequent starter activities. I also discuss and model grammar construction during shared writing with the children, who then practice these concepts later in the lesson.  The following activities aren't necessarily new ideas and I can't take any credit for inventing them, but they may serve as a reminder to some people, as well as inspiring others.

1. Descriptive Pictures

Create a document with a selection of different pictures around a common theme.  Show it to your class, then read out a sentence, which is not particularly descriptive.  Ask your class to discuss which picture it describes?  They will soon find out that the description is too generic and it does not create a clear image.  Then get the children to write their own sentences to describe a picture, you can use a sentence frame as I have done in the example below.    Children can then take turns to read out their sentences and the other children can decide which picture it  describes.

2. Connect Fours

A great tool to review grammar concepts which I've recently started using is Connect Fours from classtools.net.  Here children select groups of four words that have a common theme.  Then when they have selected the words they explain the theme to the rest of the class.
Here are the links to the above connect four games:
Word Classes 1 (verbs, conjunctions, nouns, pronouns)
Word Classes 2 (adjectives, prepositions, adverbs, determiners)
You cab also make your own connect four games, watch Richard Byrne's video to find out how.

3. Sentence Consequences

This is a classic children's game that used to be played with children drawing pictures of different animals.  The children write down a word that has to be part of the word classes that the teacher says.  The children write down their word, fold the paper over and pass it to the next person, so that they can't see what has been already written.  This keeps repeating until you've finished your instructions, then the last child reads out the silly sentence.  Here is an example of instructions that you could use:
  1. Write down an article
  2. Write down an adjective
  3. Write down a common noun
  4. Write down a verb
  5. Write down a preposition
  6. Write down an article and an adjective
  7. Lastly write down another noun

4. Act Out Prepositions  

I first heard about this idea from Phil Beadle, an early advocate (possibly the inventor) of Kung Fu Punctuation, but I haven't head anyone talking about it for a while.  Children move around their chairs based on the instructions that you read out.  Then you ask them to identify the prepositional phrase.  It's a quick warm up activity that  I've found reinforce the definition of prepositions.
  1. Stand in front of your chair.
  2. Stand behind your chair.
  3. Go under your chair.
  4. Stand next to your chair.
  5. Stand on top of your chair (If health and safety allows!!).

5. Act Out Verbs

Another classic variation of this game is to write a selection of powerful verbs on a piece of paper and place them into a 'hat'.  Pick a child to take a piece of paper and then without revealing what it says, ask the child to go outside and then re-enter the room in the style of that verb.  The rest of the class then has to guess the verb.  This can be used to introduce different verbs as well as reinforcing this word class.

6. Grammar List Poem

In this activity you give the class a list of word classes to write down, they then write it again underneath with the next word class added onto the end, thus forming a list.  Here's an example of what I mean.
  1. Article
  2. Noun
  3. adjective
  4. verb
  5. Adverb
  6. Preposition
  7. A noun phrase
  8. A connective
  9. A subordinate clauses
A
A man
A wicked man
A wicked man walking
A wicked man walking silently
A wicked man walking silently towards
A wicked man walking silently towards the busy park
A wicked man walking silently towards the busy park, whilst
A wicked man walking silently towards the busy park, whilst 

7. Rearranging clauses

In this example you write down a sentence with several clauses on a piece of paper and then photocopy it. Children decide where the clauses are and rip the paper into those clauses.  They then practice rearranging the clauses to see how this changes the meaning of the sentence.  This is a great way for children to experiment with how changing the order of a sentence can effect its meaning.

8. Missing Verbs

Type out a paragraph of a text you are study and remove all of the verbs and replace them with dashes.  Photocopy this and give it to each member of the class.  Discuss how verbs are essential for sentences to make sense.  Then ask your class to write in new verbs to replace the missing verbs and change the meaning of the text.  It's a great time for children to make up silly sentences, as well as helping children to become more familiar with the role of verbs.  This can be repeated for any other word class.

9. Emotional Adjectives

I've used this as a way of collecting vocabulary before the children start writing.  It works particular well for creating stage directions in play-scripts.  Take photos of one or two children  in class pulling different exaggerated faces before the start of the lesson pulling.  For example tired, angry, upset, bored, annoyed, startled, overjoyed, content.  Then show each picture in turn on your whiteboard and children write down a word to describe the emotion that is being shown, which can be up-levelled using a thesaurus.  It makes a great and useful display on your working wall.

10. Dictation Races

This is an approach for making children more aware of sentence structure and the importance of punctuation.  It has been used a lot in the past with children, who have english as an additional language.  But I think it is a great way to teach sentence structure to younger children and as a way of reinforcing spellings and punctuation to older children.    
This activity requires a bit of space, so it is best to do it outside or  in a hall.  Have a short paragraph of a text in a large font (best to blow it up onto A3)  and place this on the floor at one end of the hall.  At the other end of the hall split the children into teams of around 4 or five and give each team a whiteboard and a pen.  The teams take turns to run to the text memorise a line then run back and copy it onto the whiteboard.  The winner is the first team to copy the text correctly with no spelling and punctuation mistakes.  Further instructions can be found here.
I hope that has reminded you of a few good ideas and may be has introduced you to a few new ideas. Thanks for reading.  

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