Yes, I said it. Grammar and fun in the same sentence. I imagine a few eye rolls here, and they are justified. If you have tried multiple grammar lessons that didn't quite go as planned, and the only fun part came from knowing the lesson was over, I hear you. And just to be clear, I have never considered "fun" to be the most important aspect of teaching. But if you can teach well and have fun, well, why not?
I've developed a few simple ways that you can add life to your grammar lessons, and can wake you and your students up and actually lead to more mastery.
1.) Start class with a low-stakes warm up game.
If you can get students into a positive mental space at the beginning of class, everything goes better from there. Especially when it comes to grammar. Why? Because when you say you're going to teach a grammar lesson, typically students will immediately shut down. They have probably endured hundreds of boring grammar lessons in their lifetime. So start by showing them that this grammar lesson won't be as painful as past grammar lessons.
One way to do this is with a simple "Would You Rather...?" game. Even better if you can incorporate some of the grammar concepts you'll be teaching into the game.
A quick, easy warm up gets students into a place of receiving without their defenses up. It gives them a "win" right out of the gate because it doesn't ask anything difficult of them.
Another fun way to use "Would You Rather..." games is as a review. Read more about how I do this HERE.
2.) Use humor where you can.
With almost any grammar lesson you do, you need some examples to showcase the grammar concept. But have you noticed that anything provided by a publishing company is painfully boring? So, in your grammar lessons, don't be boring. Your students will appreciate it.
Here's an example.
If you're teaching about gerunds, why use a gerund like "building a sandcastle"? Instead, how about using the gerund "braiding a dog's hair"? See how your students might perk up the tiniest bit? It's something unexpected. Even if your students think your examples are lame, they'll give you credit for effort (I'm not joking, they appreciate that you at least tried).
3.) Use pop culture references and your students' names in examples.
Another super simple way to do this is to put your student's names in the example sentence. If you're teaching delayed adjectives, try:
Tyler, frightened, stared as his plate of fried eel.
Maybe you won't get everyone's attention, but you'll get Tyler's attention!
Alternatively, if you know your students are really into the Kardashians, throw a few Kardashian references in the example sentences. Are they into sports? Scroll through sports news for five minutes and pop an athlete into a sentence. If you don't have time to read up on sports news, just mention Steph Curry. He's always doing something worthy of a sentence.
4.) Use video clips as prompts.
This is so simple, and goes a long way with students. If you want them to write a sentence with two independent clauses, show them a quick video and then tell them to write a sentence with two independent clauses based on the video.
You can actually milk it a little more and have them write a sentence with a subordinate clause and an independent clause.
Use videos you know they'll be into. How about a recent NBA player's acceptance speech into the Hall of Fame or a popular artist's speech at the Grammys? How about a clip of a fun movie they all know from childhood? Even the most hardened high school student will perk up a little bit at a minion fighting with a banana.
5.) Get your students moving.
Movement is always a great way to help develop memory. When possible, have students get out of their desks to practice a skill.
Here's an example: if you are teaching the concept of vivid verbs and linking verbs, give each student a sentence with a sentence printed on it. Some sentences have linking verbs and some have vivid verbs.
Divide your white board into a section entitled "linking verbs" and one entitled "vivid verbs."
Using tape or magnets, have each student attach their sentence to the white board in the appropriate place.
6.) Give students a win at the end of class.
Give students a "win" at the end of class as much as possible. Have them look over all the writing they did in the class period and pick a sentence that they're proud of. They should share it with the class or a partner. It's simple, but leaves them feeling like they accomplished something (which they did).
Humor, Movement, and Personalization
If students move, laugh, or are personally included in ANY lesson, they will remember the concepts more. Give these ideas a try, and if you do, let me know how it goes!
If you're interested in trying a few of these concepts without creating the lessons from scratch, grab a free, no-prep, grammar lesson here!