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Teaching Grammar

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How do you teach grammar? Do you teach grammar?

When I went to school, sure we were taught about capital letters and full stops and I guess someone must have spoken to me about verb tense agreement, or at least I thinked they didded!

What I do know though is that I was never taught it in a formal way as is required now and I certainly never had to sit a grammar test.

Schools are only a few years into the new grammar, punctuation and spelling (GPS) test so it's fair to assume that schools are still exploring the best ways of teaching these skills. Of course, close integration with reading and writing is the best approach, as it allows children to see and use grammatical terms in context, but the nature of the standalone GPS test also warrants standalone teaching of explicit skills. There are a number of ways this can be done.

Oral Starters

Just like a maths oral starter gets children's brains in gear for the lesson, as well as revisiting key concepts, why not use a grammar oral starter before your English lesson? Teaching needn't be long - five to ten minutes is perfect - and it allows children to regularly revisit grammatical terms that they need to know.

Whole Grammar Lessons

When introducing a brand new concept, especially one that may be a little complicated (such as past progressive verbs), a dedicated grammar lesson may be the best approach. Use a broad range of modelled examples, especially questions that are similar in style to the GPS SATs test, before setting children going on an independent task. Also look for opportunities for children to apply their skills to their writing; structuring your week so your grammar lesson comes before a Big Write works well.

In my year 6 class we have a dedicated grammar lesson once a week.

Early Work

For some of your children, it may be helpful to have a topic pre-taught, so the terms are more familiar when they come to the dedicated grammar lesson or oral starter. This may well be the case with less able writers, or children who have English as an additional language. Extra exposure to the complicated terms will help embed the learning that much more.

In my class, we're lucky enough to have six iPads so I often have children watching the grammar videos during morning registration.

Intervention groups

If you know you've got children who would benefit from additional support, an intervention group could be a great option. Use them to regularly revisit key concepts, such as word classes, apostrophes and basic punctuation. Our grammar videos mean that anyone can deliver a great intervention group, where you as the teacher can be confident that all terms and concepts have been taught accurately.

What about spelling?

By year 6, spelling can be a harder nut to crack. Unlike the grammar questions which have a fairly predictable style, there is of course no way of knowing what words may be tested. In addition to phonics teaching for younger children, teach the common spelling rules that make the English language so hard - why not have a spelling rule a week to focus on? Certainly spelling needs to be a whole school focus where every member of staff is aware of where the children should be by the time they leave key stage 2.

We’re hard at work on a brand new spelling system that will intelligently test children on the words they need to know. This should be available for September. Register now to be the first to hear about its launch.

How do you teach grammar? Have you any great ideas to share? Leave them in the comments below. Also, check out our complete grammar curriculum which includes over 4 and a half hours of video resources to help you in the classroom.


Shane - Posted February 09, 2016

Having taught grammar in year 6 last year, but now in year 4, I don't envy the job of the current year 6 teachers! It seems to have taken a huge step upwards. 

I used to try and teach as much as possible as part of a literacy unit and include the grammar almost like oral starters, but as you said Chris, some aspects just need stand alone classes used to enjoy taking well known texts (hobbit, hunger games, Harry Potter etc.) and breaking it all down, finding word classes, clauses, punctuation etc. 

Although it was a challenge, we had a great (old school!) activity with partial English and partial Viking language and they had to work out the word classes based on the context of their position in the sentence. Really helped them to think about what each word's job was in the sentence. 

Great stuff on here! Thanks :)

p.s. Please don't mark my grammar... 

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