A Better Way To Review Writing and Grammar Concepts: Four Strategies For ELA

A Better Way To Review Writing and Grammar Concepts: Four Strategies For ELA

You must allow for time to review writing and grammar concepts for learning to sink in deeply. If you're anything like me though, you may be guilty of tacking on review only when you have a little extra time or don’t have a better idea for a lesson plan. But really, review should be a priority. For learning to stick, students have to work with certain concepts many, many times. And sometimes even more than that. 

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So, without further ado, here are a few ways you can allow students to review writing and grammar concepts in ways that will engage them and give them a chance to grasp concepts even more deeply. 

Give Your Students Opportunities to Reflect and Revise Essays They’ve Already Completed

A critical part of the writing process is revision, and yet, we spend so little time here in the traditional classroom. It’s a shame because if you think about life beyond the classroom (I hate saying “the real world”), a ton of time is spent on revising a piece of writing. Consider how long an employee will spend revising a presentation for stakeholders. Or think about how much time a doctoral candidate would revise her dissertation. Revision is critical, so it’s important students have tools that they can lean on for making their writing better. 

 quote that says "A critical part of the writing process is revision."

One way to do this is through what I like to call a “style-minded revision” activity. 

Students take an essay that they have either completed for a grade or an essay that they are in the final stages of writing. 

You can give them specific things to look for in their essay that relate to style, grammar, and craft. Here are a few ideas:

  • Look back at your whole essay. Underline your linking verbs. Try changing at least 3 of those linking verbs to action verbs.
  • Look at one paragraph in your essay. Count the number of simple sentences. Then count your compound sentences, complex sentences, and compound-complex sentences. Do you have a variety of sentence types? If not, consider adding a few of the sentence types you don’t have. 

I love giving students an opportunity to see how small changes can make a BIG difference in the final product. I also love to show them that all those grammar concepts we talked about actually matter in writing. 

If you’d like to use this exact activity, I’ve got one completely created that you can use. It includes the directions for what students should look for in their essays as well as a Google Slides presentation that gives them mentor sentences as examples of each concept . You can check it out HERE

image of a slide show that explains what vivid and linking verbs are

Use short clips to review parts of speech, sentence types, and phrases

I cannot overstate my love for using short video clips in the ELA classroom. You can use these for so many different, meaningful activities. If you’d like to check out a few specific suggestions of short, animated clips to use, I have a whole blog post over HERE   that you can read that gives you specific clips to use and explains how to use them. 

I love using short clips because they are engaging, they don’t take up much class time, and they can work for pretty much anything you’re trying to accomplish. 

One way you can use them to review writing and grammar concepts is to have students watch the clip, then do a short assignment. You don’t have to grade these responses; you can simply ask volunteers to share or “check” them informally. 

Here are a few things you can ask of your students after watching a clip to review grammar concepts:

1.) Describe the main conflict in this clip in a few sentences. Use only action verbs.

2.) Describe one of the characters’ strengths in this clip in a few sentences. Use an adjective to start one of your sentences.

3.) Describe the setting of this clip. End one of your sentences with an adverb. 

You don’t have to simply review grammar concepts though. Here are a few questions you can ask that relate to elements of story:

1.) Make a simple plot diagram for this clip including the setting, rising action, conflict, falling action, and resolution.

2.) What type of conflicts did you notice? Man vs. man? Man vs. self? Anything else?

3.) Write a theme statement for this clip.

The types of questions I listed above work great for animated shorts  like this one,  but you can also use other short clips in your review activities. 

I like using clips of great dancers like the Jabbawockeez  for reviewing action verbs. A video of a rock-climbing competition like this one  can work great for reviewing prepositional phrases. 

If you like these ideas for using short clips to inspire writing, I’ve created a full grammar curriculum that uses this activity in most of my anchor lessons.  You can click here to read more about it. 


grammar lessons for high school


Hands-On Review Games

Students of any age appreciate a good hands-on game. I have seen this over and over. I’m not just talking about freshmen either. 

One time I had to interview for a job teaching high school English and part of that interview was teaching the AP Lit class for a full class period. Mind you, I had never taught AP Lit in my life. And here I was faced with teaching a group of students I didn’t know who were taking a class that I had never taught. 

I started the class with a hands-on game. I knew students were going to take the AP Lit exam within a few weeks, so I put literary terms on small hand-held cards and then I put examples of those terms on other hand-held cards. They had to match up the pairs. 

This group of seniors loved it! And it might have been part of the reason I got the job. 

You can do it how I did, DIY style, or you can use word games that are already out there. I like reviewing grammar concepts like sentence fluency through hands-on games that utilize mentor sentences. 

Here’s one way you can review sentence types and fluency:

Give each student a mentor sentence printed on a half sheet of paper. They look at their mentor sentence and determine if that sentence is simple, compound, complex, or compound-complex. Yes, you may need to review these concepts before launching into the activity.

Once they’ve had a few minutes to think about their sentence, have them move to a designated spot in your class--like the game “four corners.” All the simple sentences go to one corner, all the compound sentences go to another corner, all the complex sentences go to another corner, and all the compound-complex sentences go to the final corner.  

Once students are in their designated spot, have them all look at each other’s sentences and determine if all those sentences are the same type. If a student realizes he’s not in the corner with the same type of sentence as his, let him move. 

Then, if you want to add a little more fun, have students go back to their seats with their sentences and draft the beginning of a creative story with that sentence as inspiration or as the first line in the story. Remind them to use a variety of sentences in their creative pieces. 

I have a lot more ideas about how to use hands-on games in your ELA classroom, and you can check out more in my post  "3 Super Simple Ways To Make Grammar Hands-On."


picture of hands-on review games


Use New York Times Picture Prompts

This is a no-prep, no grade activity that allows students to use skills they’ve built throughout the school year. 

Go to the NY Times Picture prompts page  and have your students write about the picture prompt. You can have students free write on paper or have them actually respond to the comment online if they have access to a device. 

Give them time to read the related article or, if they don’t have a device, you could print these out ahead of time. 

Then, allow for discussion of the picture, the prompt, and the article. You could also discuss what other commenters online said. 

Here’s what they’re reviewing by doing this: 

  • All grammatical constructs including sentence structure, spelling, punctuation, and more (hopefully they don’t want to embarrass themselves, and having an authentic audience goes a long way)
  • Writing tone
  • Fluency
  • Considering different viewpoints and bias

This is a great activity for a day when you want to review a host of skills you’ve covered in your class from the school year, but you could also use it anytime at all during the year. The NY Times provides these picture prompts every day of the school year! 

The NY Times has some rich writing activities and ideas, and I encourage you to check out more of their classroom strategies and lesson plans. I also love them because they agree with my method of teaching grammar, which is using mentor sentences to guide grammar instruction! 

Reviewing writing and grammar concepts does not have to be boring or tedious with these tested methods that engage students and truly deepen their learning. 

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