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Learn the Basics of English Grammar

English grammar is not always seen as the most riveting of subjects, but it can be made more fun with a little bit of imagination.

Sometimes it feels like just mentioning the words ‘English grammar’ is enough to emit groans from your students. But this doesn’t need to be the case. English grammar rules can be easy to follow if students have a good foundation to build on. So many students get caught up in the detail, trying to remember too many rules at once, but this can be remedied if you break grammar down into easily digestible segments and build on their knowledge as they progress through primary school. 

By taking each element in turn, you’ll be able to develop fun ways to teach English grammar through exercises, before bringing all the skills students need together. This will give your students the best start to studying English and hopefully inspire them to create their own novels and adventures.

To help you on this journey, EducationCity has a wide selection of classroom resources which focus on specific elements of grammar. We’ll add details of these beneath each section so that you can refer to these later. Feel free to explore our free resources too for printable Activity Sheets and useful teacher templates. For those who need information quickly, we’ve pulled together this handy blog with fun and easy ideas to cover off the basics! 

Learn the Parts of Speech

The parts of speech – nouns, pronouns, determiners, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, clauses, conjunctions and prepositions – are the main building blocks of sentences. Introduce each to the class, ensuring every student understands the role the type of word plays, then complete exercises around each element individually. You can play simple games like ‘Odd One Out’ where you have several nouns and one odd adjective, for instance, to reinforce and refresh knowledge, making the game more and more complex as students progress.

Also, take a look at EducationCity’s Cloze Topic Tool (ID #2141-2145). This is brilliant for seeing the parts of speech in practice, as it allows you to look at several selected texts and highlight each part of speech in turn. 

Cloze Topic Tool
Cloze Topic Tool

Nouns and Noun Phrases

Start off teaching nouns using this game, based on the ‘I Spy’ classic. Fill a hat with slips of paper with letters on each, and ask one of your students to pull one out. If it’s an ‘s’, they would say, “I spy in my mind’s eye, a noun beginning with ‘s’”. Any noun starting with ‘s’ would be acceptable as an answer. The students don’t need to be able to see it. 

Once students are comfortable with this, move the game up a level by adding an extra hat containing categories of nouns. These categories would include common nouns, abstract nouns, collective nouns and proper nouns. Students now have to pick one slip of paper from each hat. Once your student has their two pieces of paper, the class needs to think of a word that starts with the selected letter and falls into the chosen category. 

Why not look at?

Noun phrases are also a huge area of focus and are fantastic for adding detail and specifics to writing. Noun phrases can be as simple as one word (i.e., a pronoun alone) or extremely complex, so it’s a fun group challenge to make the longest possible phrase. Why not take a picture of a person and see how many different elements you can add in, focusing on appearance, character and the things they have with them?

Why not try?

Pronouns

Pronouns may be small but can be problematic for many students. Whether to use ‘I’ or ‘me’ in sentences like ‘George and I ate dinner’, is particularly difficult for many students, especially if they already use the wrong form when speaking.

Why not look at?

Determiners

Determiners are very important in grammar but can often be confused with definite and indefinite articles. We’d recommend focusing on articles to start, and once they are firmly established in your students’ minds, move on to possessives, demonstratives, quantifiers, distributive and interrogative determiners. You’ll find that your students will use them anyway. It’s just a matter of linking a grammatical concept to what they do naturally.

Why not try?

Verbs

Charades is perfect for verbs. Bringing actions to life can help anchor what verbs are in your students’ minds. With the youngest students, you’ll want to focus on quite simple verbs in the present progressive, i.e., ‘I am swimming’, ‘I am reading’, etc., but as students move further up the school, more complex actions and different tenses can be tackled. In this case, your prompt card would need to say the verb and the desired tense, so ‘I was abseiling’ would be the answer for ‘past progressive’ and ‘to abseil’, whilst ‘I had made a smoothie’ would result from ‘past perfect’ and ‘to make a smoothie’.

Why not look at?

Amazing Verbs Activity
Amazing Verbs Activity

Adverbs

Adverbs add extra information about the verbs they link to and are great in games like ‘How Would You…?’ Split the class into groups and give each a different scenario, starting with ‘How would you…’ It could be ‘walk past a sleeping dragon’ or ‘eat cake with the Queen’ and you’ll be looking for answers like ‘quickly’, ‘silently’, ‘delicately’ and ‘regally’ to give additional detail to students’ writing.

Why not try?

Adjectives

Adjectives again add depth to writing, giving the reader more detail so that they can really feel part of the story. A fun adjective game to play could be themed around a detective story with the adjectives acting as clues, a little bit like they do in the game ‘Guess Who’. You’ll need to pre-prepare a story and source some pictures of the people involved. By using adjectives to describe what has happened, the victim and the suspect, your students can discount people as the story progresses on account of their age, features, etc., until the suspects are whittled down to one person, and the crime solved!

Why not look at?

Treasure Traps Learn Screen
Treasure Traps Learn Screen

Clauses and Conjunctions

Clauses and conjunctions are intrinsically linked as co-ordinating conjunctions join two equally important clauses, and subordinating conjunctions add a dependent clause to a main clause. 

There are seven co-ordinating conjunctions, and as many students find them difficult to place, incorporating them into a fun activity is one of the best ways to learn them. 

First of all, write the letters A, B, F, N, O, S and Y on slips of paper – these letters represent the seven conjunctions, namely ‘and’, ‘but’, ‘for’, ‘nor’, ‘or’, ‘so’ and ‘yet’ - and place them into a hat for each team. 

Once you have prepared the slips of paper and hats, divide the class into two teams. Teams play head to head as a race, with each student taking their turn to run to the board, draw a letter from the hat and write a sentence with the conjunction they’ve chosen. Once completed correctly, they run back and sit down. The next student then takes their turn. The team to have completed sentences for all the letters, and have sat back down on their seats, is the winning team.

This fun relay race will get your students’ brains working and introduce some healthy, fun competition to your lesson. 

Subordinate conjunctions tend to be easier to identify as the main clause is usually obvious. The conjunctions themselves are numerous and varied, but most are in regular usage.

Why not try?

Prepositions

Last but not least, we have prepositions, which are some of the more simple grammatical elements to teach as they relate to spatial awareness. There are a wide range of activities that can be used to learn these. You could try simply showing a picture of a room on the whiteboard and ask the children to place objects using different prepositions or get the class to follow instructions as in the game ‘Simon Says’. 

Why not look at?

Finding new and interesting ways to learn basic English grammar doesn’t have to be laborious. Thinking outside the box and feeding off games you know your students will enjoy will help you find the best ways to learn the grammatical elements as a group. Grammar is essentially at the foundation of all communication and seeks to ensure clarity, so working on it collaboratively can only help students with understanding how it works in practice.

We hope you’ve found this blog useful, and the content mentioned supportive. If you don’t already have a subscription with EducationCity, you can access our resources by simply taking a free trial. Click here and we can organise this for you!

If you’ve other ideas you’d like to share, we’d love to hear them, so please do contact us by emailing us on info@educationcity.com!

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