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Back to School: Top 5 Grammar Tips

Janelle Cox

Grammar may, at its core, provide the building blocks that help write well-formed prose. But beyond this (and the school system it’s taught within), grammar represents so much more than proper sentence structure—it is a benchmark of professionalism, of attention to detail, and of an intellectual. Let this essential skill go adrift, and so too may your college acceptance letter.

It may sound a bit heavy-handed, but the importance of grammar within the classroom and beyond cannot be stressed enough. And in order for young minds to come to grips with how to execute this fine skill properly, the rules behind it need to be taught and reinforced, especially as everyone returns back to school.

Here are five tips to help you start off the back to school season on a grammatically correct note:

Back to School Grammar Tip #1: Spelling

Spelling is a foundational element of teaching grammar, so it’s a good idea to first go over basic rules—especially rubrics like “i” before “e” except after “c” and change the “y” to an “i” when it is preceded by a consonant. Have students use mnemonic devices to help them spell words. For example, students can remember how to spell the word “ocean” by using the acronym “Only cats’ eyes are narrow.”

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It’s also good to reinforce each letter, its sound, and help identify spelling patterns and tricky words. Try to emphasize sound spelling habits early to avoid young children becoming dependent upon spell check and autocorrect.

Tip #2: Nouns

A fun way to reinforce the rules for nouns is to play noun Scattergories. As an adaptation to the popular game which children may be familiar, students list nouns in the appropriate categories after rolling a die. This game is a great way to visually see which students understand the rules—making it easy to identify any who may need one-on-one help thereafter.

Tip #3: Adjectives

Once students understand the rules of nouns, it’s an easy transition to begin teaching them about adjectives. The best way to teach this is to use a classroom roundabout game that starts with a simple noun (i.e. bear). Ask one student to describe the bear build progressively around the classroom until students have a good understanding of an adjective’s function. Here’s an example:

Teacher: How would you describe a bear?

Student 1: “A bear is brown.”

Teacher: Say the words together—“Brown bear.”

Student 1: “Brown bear.”

Teacher: (To another student) Could you add another descriptive word?

Student 2: “Grizzly, brown bear.”

Tip # 4: Verbs

A good way to teach children that a verb is a word that describes an action is by physically demonstrating the appropriate actions for pronouns. For example, conjugate the verb “to sing” by pointing to yourself (I), pointing to a student (you), pointing to a girl (she), pointing to a boy (he), pointing to a boy and a girl (they), etc. I sing, you sing, she sings, he sings, they sing.

Tip #5: Punctuation

Do your students know the difference between a comma and a semicolon? Don’t get me started on the oxford comma, which has been a polarizing debate among the masses for some time now.

The best tip for teaching punctuation is to have students write down a sentence, then say the sentence aloud while pausing where they think there should be punctuation.

Rules for Commas:

  • Use a comma to separate three or more elements in a series.
  • Use a comma to connect two independent clauses.
  • Use a comma to set off introductory elements.
  • Use a comma to set off parenthetical elements.

Rules for Semicolons:

  • Use a semicolon to sort out a long list.
  • Use a semicolon to separate related independent clauses.

This activity works well for all punctuation instructions—try it with pauses for periods, question marks, exclamation points, brackets, parenthesis, apostrophes, hyphens, and slashes.

For students who still struggle with grammar, cover your classroom with tips and colorful charts for easy reference. You can also create a fill in the blank punctuation worksheet to really reinforce the message. As always, practice is the key to success!

Do you have any grammar tips to share? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below. We would love to hear your ideas!

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators