In the groove with grammar

After a busy week of training staff teams in creative and engaging ways to teach grammar, I thought I’d do a quick round-up of some of my favourite Primary English grammar ideas and resources.

Grappling with Grammar

Back in October 2012 I posted my very first grammar blog Grappling With Grammar and wrote about one of my favourite grammar books: Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynn Truss. I still love this book and I clearly still love the phrase ‘Grappling With Grammar’ as I’ve been using the title for my grammar subject knowledge course ever since.  If you’ve not read Eats, Shoots and Leaves I recommend it highly as an entertaining read about grammar.

Read More

Quick tips for grammar: the die is cast

Dice are one of the most versatile resources to be found in any primary classroom. The roll of a die enables children to take control of their own learning, whilst the element of chance ensures fun and excitement that can’t be found in more formalised approaches to learning. In this short article I look at three ways to use dice to support spelling, grammar and punctuation

It’s definitely worth investing in some commercially produced classroom dice. TTS sell a variety of different dice, including dry-wipe and magnetic. I like the foam ones with PVC pockets which come in ‘giant’ suitable for  for class activities and ‘working large’, and ‘regular’ for working at tables and in small groups.

Plurals dice

Mark up some dice so that each face shows ‘s’, ’es’ or ‘ies’. Then provide children with a section of root words to be pluralised. Ask them to roll the dice and then choose a root word which is pluralised using the suffix shown on their dice. Children could be encouraged to record their findings in a table so that it is easier to spot the patterns determining how each word is made plural.

Read More

Quick tips for grammar: commas and clauses

commaIn KS1 children are required to use commas to punctuate lists. Once they enter KS2, the 2014 National Curriculum begins to introduce the idea that commas can be used to punctuate other units of grammatical meaning within a sentence. All of a sudden, using commas becomes tricky. Here, we discuss a few ways to ease the pain when teaching how to use commas with clauses.

Use key grammatical terminology

The big problem children have with commas is knowing where to put them! Punctuating lists with commas is fairly straightforward (see our post on commas in lists) but knowing where to use commas to mark where one clause ends and another begins is quite another story. Start at the beginning and ensure that they are able to identify the verb in simple sentences.

E.g.

I wore my boots.

It was raining.

The cat was sleeping.

The mouse grabbed a snack.

If they’re not able to do this with ease, then once you start asking them to add commas to mark clauses in complex sentences they’re going to get in a punctuation pickle.  Our Is it a Sentence? game is good for this, just ensure you reinforce the fact that a simple sentence is a clause, and every clause has to have a verb.

Read More

Quick tips for grammar: commas in lists

The 2014 National Curriculum asks that children learn to use commas in lists from Y2 onward. This article is a set of tried and tested teacher ideas for introducing and then consolidating the use of commas in lists.

The Standards and Testing Agency’s English grammar, punctuation and spelling test framework sets out that the use of the serial (or Oxford) comma will be penalised in lists of single items. Consequently, when introducing commas in lists you may then want to introduce the idea that ‘ands’ are frightened of commas so will never be seen in a sentence next to one. This won’t stop you and your class from encountering texts where the serial comma is part of the publisher’s house style but it will offer an opportunity to reinforce your own house rule – no commas next to ‘and’ in a list!

Read More

Quick tips for grammar: possessive apostrophes

The 2014 National Curriculum asks that children learn to use apostrophes for singular possession from Y2 onward and apostrophes for plural possession from Y3 onward. Bearing in mind that apostrophes for contraction are also expected from Y2 onward, and that errors with apostrophes are common-place in the ‘real world’, it is little wonder that children find possessive apostrophes difficult to master. The introduction to Appendix 2 of the 2014 National Curriculum stipulates where content should be introduced but also that it may take considerable time to be embed; nowhere is this more apparent, than with the teaching of possessive apostrophes.

apostrophe

The bone belonging to the dog.
Understanding when an apostrophe for possession is necessary, requires children to understand the notion of possession or ownership. A first step then in understanding possessive apostrophes means that children must be able to identify ‘to whom the object in a sentence belongs’. Provide lots of sentences (with single actors), and ask children to identify to whom the object belongs. e.g.:

The dog’s bone…the girl’s ball…the boy’s trainers…the man’s car…the woman’s house…

Read More

Quick tips for grammar: inverted commas

speech marks

The 2014 National Curriculum requires children to start using inverted commas to indicate direct speech from Year 3 onward. This work should then continue throughout Year 4 so that children are able to accurately use the full range of punctuation when writing dialogue. Here are a few quick tips for teaching the use of inverted commas.

Create a speech progression

Writing dialogue correctly with all the punctuation in the right place and a new line for each speaker is challenging, and that’s without the demands of asking children to have interesting, engaging dialogue with a variety of synonyms for ‘said’. The 2014 National Curriculum recognises the challenge of speech, which is why both Y3 and Y4 have objectives relating to speech (see National Curriculum Appendix 2). As a teacher, year group, school have a clear idea about how children will progress through the writing of speech. I like to think:

  • Identify speech in texts
  • Write in speech bubbles
  • Use inverted commas
  • Use inverted commas and the correct punctuation with the reporting clause before the speech
  • Use inverted commas and the correct punctuation with the reporting clause after the speech
  • Use inverted commas and the correct punctuation with the speech broken by the reporting clause
  • Write dialogue punctuated correctly with a new line for each new speaker

 

I’ve made a handy classroom prompt for punctuating the three patterns of direct speech which you can find on the Resources Page. This is free to download and is handy if you need to remind yourself where the commas and capitals go in each pattern of direct speech.

Read More

Quick tips for grammar: using question marks

The 2014 National Curriculum requires children in Y1 to be able to demarcate sentences with full stops, question marks and exclamation marks. By the end of Y2 children need to be able to use these punctuation marks whilst also recognising the sentence types with which they work: statement, question, exclamation and command. In this article I look at ways to introduce question marks in Y1 and Y2 and also how to reinforce their use throughout KS2.

question_mark1

Question words

Create a classroom ‘question display’ with the words why, what, who, where, when etc. on display. Add to this over time with further question words such as ‘how’ and ‘which’, and question phrases (or question stems) such as what is the most…how can I tell…who is the… 

Read More

Quick tips for grammar: capital letters and full stops

full stopUsing full stops and capital letters to demarcate sentences is a requirement of the 2014 National Curriculum from Y1 onward. The following activities have been devised by teachers for working with the youngest children in school but they may still be useful to teachers working with older children who continue to struggle with demarcating sentences accurately.

Human sentences

Use strips of paper to create human sentences with children. Say a sentence, write the sentence, cut-up the sentence and then give separate words to different children so that they can then work collaboratively to recreate the sentence. Use the capital letter and full stop as clues to work out where different words go in the sentence. Over time this game can be repeated with the omission of the capital letter and full stop for children so that children can activate their own understanding to punctuate the sentence accurately.

Tennis ball full stop

Use a tennis ball or other small ball to mark the end of the sentence when building human sentences as a class.

Get physical

Create actions and sound effects for full stops. Use these actions and sound effects when reading text as a class. Encourage children to use them to decide which punctuation marks to use when reading unpunctuated sentences.

Read More

Grammar

 

Grammar

“…fooling about with the stuff the world is made of: with sounds, and with shapes and colours, and with clay and paper and wood and metal, and with language.  Fooling about, playing with it, pushing it this way and that, turning it sideways, painting it different colours, looking at it from the back, putting one thing on top of another, asking silly questions, mixing things up, making absurd comparisons, discovering unexpected similarities, making pretty patterns, and all the time saying ‘Supposing…I wonder…What if…’”  Pullman, (2005).

Isn’t this what grammar is all about?  Providing children with choices and options when they are writing?  Grammar study in context of high quality texts should enable children to write more effectively.

Research shows this to be a truth, Myhill et al, (2012) found that embedded grammar teaching had the greatest impact on writing (See Debra Myhill talking about the research here).  The research goal was to open up a repertoire of possibilities for young writers to give them access to authorial decision making.  Isn’t this why we teach grammar?  Fearn and Farnan, (2002), observed simply being able to define and identify grammatical labels is not related to writing skills’.  Perhaps someone needs to have a conversation with the policy makers.

And herein lies one of our problems: the eternal fight between research and policy.  Current policy insists that children name grammatical function words and complete ‘context-less’ tasks. So what do we do in the classroom?

Well my answer is a bit of both.  We need to teach grammar through the context of high quality texts; this is crucial as this is how authors write. High quality texts haven’t been artificially manufactured to prove or show a grammar rule; and so have grammar in context.  Secondly, exploring these texts give children a chance to explore what real writers do; and to steal from Pie Corbett for a moment – to ‘magpie’ the best ideas.  However, we also have testing at the end of KS2 so we also must ensure that children have the language and experience to be able to access the test.

Read More

One Stop Writing Shop

 

Some of you may have been following us a while, some of you more recently and we thought it might be useful to reflect on a few of our most searched for and read posts.

This selection relates to the teaching of writing:

Writing is a tricky subject, we know. It is searched for a lot on our blog. One reason is that we don’t always see ourselves as writers so we have written about Teachers as Writers to support you. Just a few thoughts to get your ideas flowing.

As a team we love to use visual images as a starting point or a really good picture book, so here are some ideas to start you off.

Need teaching ideas for persuasive writing? Something to get the children motivated? We can help with that!

Getting your GaPS in a twist? Need to grapple grammar?

There’s lots more too! Just search writing and have a look.

The Primary English Team

 

Video from Primary English

Clips from two guided reading sessions in John Shelton Primary School in Coventry. Rachel is using two of the titles from The Mini Tales Pack with a year 5 and year 6 group of children whilst addressing some key reading objectives.

Get in touch

Drop our admin team an email at .

Our Services

School INSET packages | Conferences | Individual teacher support | In-class support
Primary English Courses – Now Booking