How to Make Grammar Lessons Stick


Most grammar curricula is repetitive. In fact, about half of the material taught each year is review. This repetition can inadvertently communicate to students that grammar isn’t something they have to remember. After all, they’ll be covering it again next year!

If you want to make grammar lessons stick, you’ll want to adopt a new approach—regardless of the curriculum you’re using. I have three strategies for you.

Three Strategies for Making Grammar Lessons Stick

Explain the Purpose

“Because I said so” isn’t a good reason for learning grammar, nor is “because I had to learn it.” When kids understand the point of learning grammar, they will be motivated to learn it this year and remember it the next.

If you don’t know the “why” behind grammar rules, start learning with your students. A study of the history of English can be very enlightening. For example, Robert Lowth in his 1762 book, A Short Introduction to English Grammar, pointed out the logical fallacy of a double-negative. “I didn’t do nothing” actually means “I did do something.”

Students who bristle at unnecessary grammar rules will enjoy learning that some of them (like not ending a sentence with a preposition) have become obsolete because people ignore them. Grammar isn’t just based on expert guidelines but on popular usage.

Use Mnemonics

You may remember the rhyme “i before e except after c.” You remember it because of rhyme and repetition. Shurley Grammar takes advantage of both of these mnemonic approaches with their jingles. Teachers are to play and recite the jingles regularly.

While your students may retain the information, they may not enjoy learning it. Reflect on commercial jingles that you can’t get out of your head and you’ll know what I mean. Use them sparingly!

Prepositions are one part of speech that memorization is particularly useful for. Try this short song for memorizing them.

Another excellent mnemonic device for remembering prepositions is to use a small toy (I used a robot) and an empty toilet paper tube. Point out that the word position is part of the word preposition. Many prepositions relate to position. The robot can be behind, below, or inside the roll, for example. Have your kids play with the toy to demonstrate prepositions and they will remember them.

Make Grammar Fun

While some children think grammar workbooks are fun, most don’t. The problem with boring teaching materials (besides the whining and complaining) is that they aren’t memorable.

I still remember the day when my 5th-grade teacher had a spontaneous B-Day. It wasn’t a birthday, but a day focused on the letter B. We were pretty old for that sort of thing, but we had an absolute blast. We had a relay race to see which team could drink water out of baby bottle fastest, for example. I don’t remember anything else from that year.

How can you make grammar fun? Play games with your kids. Get silly! Emotions help make experiences memorable and laughter is a great emotion to use. The kids and I have laughed so hard playing You’ve Been Sentenced. The concept is that you create sentences with words you’ve been given and then argue why your sentence makes sense. You can imagine why this is fun. You’ll teach your kids debate skills at the same time.

There are also dozens of free grammar games you can play with your kids to teach every grammar concept. Many of them require very little preparation. I’m so passionate about making grammar fun (for teachers and students) that it’s a hallmark of the elementary language arts curriculum I’ve developed. You can get a sneak peek of it and a free reading-for-treasure map here.

You Can Make Grammar Lessons Stick Today

If you want to motivate your students to learn and remember grammar, put the workbook down and start explaining why we have grammar rules. Listen to the preposition song and have the kids act prepositions out. Choose a grammar game to play and above all, have fun!

Melanie Wilson

About the author

Dr. Melanie Wilson is a Christian psychologist turned homeschooling mother of six. She blogs at Psycho with 6, podcasts at Homeschool Sanity, and is the author of The Organized Homeschool Life book and planner and Grammar Galaxy elementary language arts curriculum, available at Grammar Galaxy books.

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