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Effective Ideas for Teaching Grammar and Vocabulary

Gain ideas on how to make grammar and vocabulary lessons purposeful and meaningful to students so that they retain the information.

Grammar and vocabulary lessons are an important part of any English classroom. Vocab and grammar instruction must be purposeful and meaningful to students (within context) for them to retain the lesson. Adding fun to these grammar activities and lessons increases student engagement and retention.

Below is a curated Twitter chat that shares ideas from other teachers on how they teach these concepts in their classrooms.

Q1: Do you teach grammar separately or incorporate it into other aspects of your ELA curriculum? Explain

  • I teach grammar along with writing; for instance, when I teach personal narrative I teach verbs, adjectives, etc.
  • Sometimes I do separate grammar lessons but I like to work lessons into major writing pieces
  • I teach grammar with my writing units. This year I did a “Grammar Bootcamp” with my NaNo unit
  • I always incorporate language instruction into what we are reading or writing. Love using mentor texts and have students emulate 
  • I do MUG Shot sentences at the beginning of the lesson two times a week + in response to writing errors
  • I teach grammar as part of whatever we are working on. It’s never stand alone. I like mentor sentences
  • Sometimes separate grammar, mostly just hitting on what they struggle with
  • I do both. I find it helpful to work on skills while writing but also feel the conversation of grammar helpful to practice in chunks

Q2: How do you avoid boring grammar lessons?

  • Make it relevant to kids by finding examples in texts and focusing on authentic application vs. skill and drill worksheets
  • I incorporate grammar, using both silly examples AND mentor sentences. Students remember silly but relate to the mentor sentences. – I do these (plus thy/thine) with sentences about candy. Kids can relate to candy
  • It’s hard, but I try to use videos and games. I have used something called “Grammar Tales” by Scholastic in the past
  • I blend my grammar instruction and give students control over pace, process, and place. Also, lots of 1:1 instruction
  • I gamified my grammar this year! The cadet rankings in boot camp really motivated my students
  • There are lots of fun videos and games out there!
  • Try to use real-life sentences or pop culture references 
  • Been working hard lately to use tech to personalize language learning. Ex: Choose your own adventure: run-ons or fragments 
  • Use interesting mentor texts to help students see grammar in context 
  • Jokes.  When I do adjectives I always use spicy adjectives. We make some interesting sentences.  We draw in our notes too 

Q3: Do you teach vocabulary in isolation or incorporate it into other aspects of your ELA curriculum? Explain.

  • Can I say both? Students need explicit instruction but also need vocab development skills modelled
  • Vocab is generally incorporated but has had to sometimes go into more technical words for test prep
  • Quizlet Live for review – students beg for grammar practice! Bur really everything in context
  • My department is doing 2 words a day 3x a week. Mixed results 
  • I use a mixed approach of teaching grammar in the context of what kids are reading or as stand-alone items!
  • Vocab goes with units or read-alouds in my classroom… in isolation, words are hard to retain
  • Vocab is a tough one for me! Other than reading a lot, I have never found an organic way to teach it without a ton of time
  • Students must guide vocab instruction. Who am I to say what words they know or do not know before reading a text? 
  • Academic vocab (drama terms, figurative language) before the unit, but novel study vocab integrated/in context. The goal is 10 words per week.
  • For new unit vocabulary, I also use these notes I made that use pictures and text – a synergy of traditional notes & interactive notebooks
  • Vocab gets taught when it pops up in new readings or in social studies classes as I teach both subjects
  • Who am I to say what words will be important to the way they make meaning of a text? Just because the word affects me? 
  • Discussions, talking, writing…using discussion frames like “the author uses –to–This suggests/emphasizes —-” 
  • Vocabulary can be taught in different contexts of what they are reading or you can have stand-alone vocabulary sessions. Equally good!
  • Here are some of my Skills Lab (grammar) playlists, if anyone is interested. Blended Skills Lab Playlists

Q4: What are your favourite activities for practising vocabulary? 

  • For big kids, it’s all about the #vocabsnaps! They can create them in Snapchat OR in @Seesaw  VocabSnaps
  • @Catlin_Tucker has some great vocab ideas 
  • Games for practice – lots of great downloads from Sadlier
  • Four corners! It’s a kinesthetic, interactive way to practice vocabulary and can test knowledge of synonyms and examples as well
  • With such a variety of levels in one class, how can we expect vocabulary instruction to be needed for the same words
  • Dominoes
  • I also play a very low-tech game of team tic-tac-toe using just the whiteboard
  • I like the idea of teaching the students to find meaning, not just what the meaning is.
  • Relay writing is my all-time favourite. (I love the giggles it brings when kids finally read them!)

Q5: Share your favourite grammar and vocabulary resources. 

  • Love it! I like to have students group words by their tone, too – positive, negative, etc. as they deduce 
  • Yes! I like to have them preview the text first then THEY tell ME what words they may need to learn
  • @goformative for formative assessment, @EDpuzzle for minilessons, playlists for instruction 🙂 
  • I’m looking for digital vocab options for next year – leaning towards
  • Absolutely. When we construct the list for them, we do all the thinking and inaccurate thinking at that! 
  • Jeff Anderson is also my favourite book resource for grammar and mechanics. He rocks! Image grammar is great too!
  • Books should be in every teacher’s library 

Other Resources

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