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.

For younger children or those struggling to get to grips with the rules for plurals, provide words only requiring ‘s’ and ‘es’ to form plurals (making sure that the dice are amended accordingly).

Increase the challenge of this activity by asking children to generate their own lists of words to be used in during the game.

And/but dice

Write a series of sentences with coordinating clauses (compound sentences) on sentence strips but miss out the coordinating conjunction (in this case ‘and’ or ‘but’).E.g. I wore my red socks — I didn’t wear my shoes. Mark the faces of the dice with ‘and’ or ‘but’. Now ask the children to throw the dice and choose a sentence which best suits the conjunction shown on the dice. Children should then read the sentence and write-in the conjunction in the space provided.

Increase the challenge of this game by asking children to choose a pair of sentences with one clause (simple sentences) that could be joined with ‘and’ or ‘but’. Further increase the challenge by asking children to generate their own sentences based on whether they threw an ‘and’ or a ‘but’.

For older children you could mark the dice with a wider range of coordinating conjunctions such as for, nor, or, yet, so. Some of these coordinating conjunctions, such as ‘nor’, are used infrequently and may not have been heard by all of the children (consider, I don’t like chips, nor do I like fish). Again, to support working with these potentially challenging conjunctions, consider providing the children with possible sentences before asking them to generate their own sentences.

Punctuation dice

Write a range of sentences on sentence strips (commands, statements, questions, exclamations) but omit the punctuation marks. Label up the faces of a die with full-stops, exclamation marks and question marks. Ask the children to throw the dice and choose a sentence that corresponds with the symbol shown on the die.

This activity could be amended to reinforce the use of other punctuation marks such as commas, colons and semi-colons. As with the other activities described above, learning can be supported by providing sentence examples for children, and extended by asking them to generate the sentences needed in order to demonstrate their understanding of various punctuation marks.

Rachel Clarke: Director – Primary English Education

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