We are pleased to present this guest post by Sarah Perowne. Enjoy!
Early exposure to grammar and grammatical structures in the ESL classroom is important for fluency and language development. Still, a lot of the advice for young students is about drilling vocabulary and using flashcards. While these activities have their place in the ESL classroom, they are not the only ways to teach grammar and English. Here, we’ll give you some creative ways to teach grammar that can be easily adapted to your classrooms and any age, regardless of whether they’re online or off!
Drama & Theater
Drama and theater are fantastic ways to put grammar instruction into practice. Instead of abstract rules, students see how scripts and stories rely on grammar, emotion, and movement to convey information to the audience. As we all know, being confident in a language means knowing the grammar patterns and how native speakers use them, not just how a grammar book tells us.
Puppetry (Ages 2-8, Groups and Individual)
You can use puppets and storytelling to narrate a simple story that contains examples of the grammar concept you want to teach to keep children engaged. As you tell the story, emphasize and repeat phrases or sentences that illustrate the target grammar. If you’re focusing on the past simple tense, for example, most fairytales are typically told in this tense, like Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Hansel and Gretel.
Mantle Of The Expert (Ages 5+, Small Groups)
I love using Mantle of the Expert to teach grammar. It’s an immersive and inquiry-based teaching strategy designed by Dorothy Heathcote and is a great way to get kids actively participating. Mantle of the Expert works by assigning roles to your students, making them “experts” in a specific grammar topic. Some ideas could be a punctuation detective or an order of adjectives specialist. Once your students have a role, you introduce a problem or challenge. Students then work together to solve the problem using their “expertise” in the field. Encourage them to discuss and apply their grammar knowledge, then hold a reflection session after the activity!
Stick To The Script! (Ages 7+, Pairs and Small Groups)
You can’t have a play without a script, and you can’t have a script without grammar! This one is easy to set up and teaches children the significance of different grammar and punctuation in a written text. Simply get your hands on a script, either printed or projected for the kids to read and then give them another script with the same lines but the grammar altered! For example, a script that reads “Let’s eat Grandma” and “Let’s eat, Grandma” have completely different meanings, and their stories lead in wildly different directions!
Creative Game Ideas
Games are the bread and butter of any ESL grammar lesson for young learners. However, don’t go for something predictable like flashcards or a pop quiz. Here are some creative ways you can use games to teach grammatical structures and topics.
Grammar Review Bingo for (Ages 5+, Any Size Groups)
Create blank bingo cards with separate sentence strips containing your target grammar topic or topics. On the bingo card, get your students to write the grammar topics you want to cover in each square. For example, if you’re working on adjectives, prepositions, and nouns, they can copy the category names onto their bingo card. You will read the sentence strips aloud; each time they identify the correct category from a word in the sentence, they mark or cover the category square on their bingo card. For example, if the sentence contains the word “big,” they would cover the “Adjectives” square.
Top Teachers Tip: Laminate the bingo cards so you can use them again!
Online Digital Worksheets
You can easily gamify worksheets and flashcards and make them more engaging for students when you use them digitally; plus, it saves on printing and paper and is perfect for online teaching. WordTips has a ton of digitized grammar worksheets for ESL teachers, including noun and verb worksheets for beginners, helping verbs worksheets, or parts of speech with digital flashcards.
Mad Libs (Ages 5+, Any Size Groups)
A beloved grammar game that you might not have thought about! Mad Libs allows kids to use grammar to create hilarious stories. Played in groups, start by creating a made-up story, but invite the kids to add their own nouns, verbs, and adjectives as you go! Every story will be completely different, and the silliness continues each time. If capable, the children can lead themselves, providing fresh words for unique twists and a ton of fun!
Grandmother’s Cat (Ages 5+, Any Size Groups)
Grandmother’s Cat is an adverb practice game that requires no tools or preparation. Kids take turns completing the sentence, “My grandmother’s cat is _____,” with adjectives beginning with A, then B, and slowly working your way through the alphabet. You may have tried this yourself on a long car ride or plane journey, and it sometimes goes by the name, The Alphabet Game. It’s super simple to learn but will keep you engaged in grammar in a super fun way!
Use The World Around You
Explore The Outdoors (Any Age, Groups, and Individual)
Teaching grammar through outdoor exploration engages children in a hands-on way. For example, scavenger hunts can teach nouns and adjectives as kids search and describe the objects they find. Nature walks can inspire sentence formation and storytelling as kids try to describe the world around them. When it comes to the outside, you’re only limited by your imagination!
Music & Singing (Any Age, Groups, and Individual)
Music is an international language, and using it to teach grammar is a fantastic way to engage young kids. Song lyrics contain so many grammatical elements, such as verbs, nouns, order of adjectives, and adverbs. Analyzing lyrics or creating song parodies can reinforce these ideas and make learning more enjoyable. Singing also helps pronunciation and listening skills, exploring grammar through rhythm and melody in the most fun way!
Anywhere And Everywhere (Any Age, Group, and Individual)
Grammar is everywhere, literally. Any text, speech, recording, or sound can teach kids about language. Whether observing street signs and creating sentences using them or describing the animals you see on a trip to the store, grammar can be taught and learned anywhere. By integrating grammar into real-world scenarios, children connect language to the world they exist in, making learning engaging, practical, and more obviously valuable.
Word Games (Any Age, Group, and Individual)
Word games are a fantastic way to teach kids English grammar because they’re fun and competitive. Try using Scrabble pieces to create words and order sentences or to practice CVC fluency and word patterns. Another idea could be to use an online word finder when you’re running out of planning time to generate a targeted vocabulary list for your grammar quizzes. You could show students the tool, give them a list of letters, and have them sort the generated words into grammar categories. Once they’ve done this, they can use the categories in many ways.
- Grammar rule presentations.
- A whole group discussion about specific grammar patterns and rules.
- Grammar challenges where students create original sentences or stories using the generated words and categories.
- Grammar treasure hunt.
With careful planning and a little outside-the-box thinking, there are tons of creative ways to teach grammar. So, we hope we’ve inspired you to make English a lot more fun for your youngest students beyond traditional flashcards and teacher-talk instruction.