Picture of grammar task cards in Spanish with the title "how to teach grammar in fun ways in upper elementary."

How to teach grammar in fun ways in the upper elementary classroom 

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Call me weird, but I love teaching grammar! I love learning about different languages and their rules. However, the truth is that although I love grammar, most of my students don’t feel the same way. Many kids actually despise learning grammar! So, it is my job as a teacher to make learning grammar fun and engaging for my students. As a dual-language teacher, this job is even more challenging. After all, I am teaching grammar in two different languages. So, if you are interested in learning how to teach grammar in fun ways to engage your dual language learners, you have come to the right place. In this blog post, I will be sharing some of my tips on how to teach grammar in fun ways without compromising the quality of your instruction. 

But first… why should you teach grammar?

If I could get a dollar for every time I have heard a person saying that grammar is not that important, I would be vacationing in Bali right now. Most people don’t see the point in memorizing a bunch of grammar rules just for the sake of memorizing them. And I must say… I totally agree with them! Grammar should not be just about memorizing rules. Instead, it should be about creating written communication that expresses exactly what the author is trying to convey, in his own voice. Let’s be real here for a second. I am breaking many grammar rules in this blog post. But I am doing it for a reason. Because I know the rules, I know when it is ok for me to break them. 

Knowing the rules of grammar allows me to play around with my writing. I can decide how I want to present myself based on my audience. Right now, I am writing a blog post to fellow teachers. I want this to feel like a conversation with a friend, not an academic paper. But when my audience changes, so does the way I apply my knowledge of grammar to my writing. 

So when I teach grammar to my students, I want them to know what the rules are and examine why authors choose to follow or not follow them. I love when a student brings me a book and says, “Look! The author didn’t use a comma in this compound sentence!” My answer is always the same – “Why do you think he did that?” “How does that affect his writing?” 

What is the best way to teach grammar?

Now that we have talked about why we should teach grammar, it is time to talk about how to teach grammar. 

In the past, grammar was often taught in isolation. Teachers would introduce a skill, students would practice that skill using a worksheet, and that would be the end of it. Now, let me be clear. I am NOT saying that is wrong to teach a minilesson on a specific grammar skill. I do that all the time! I am also NOT saying that worksheets are bad. Given the right context, they can be very useful. However, these things should be part of a comprehensive strategy that focuses on teaching students how to apply what they are learning. 

Teach grammar in context

Since the goal of teaching grammar is to get students to apply what they are learning to their own writing, teaching grammar in context is essential. But how do you teach grammar in context? 

My favorite way to teach grammar in context is through mentor sentences. Mentor sentences give students a chance to see how published authors use grammar to improve the quality of their message. The way they play around with grammar rules impacts the mood and the tone of their work. 

I love looking at mentor sentences with my students and talking about why the author made the decisions he made, and how it affected the way we perceived what they wrote. It is also a great way to look at well-written sentences that clearly express a complete idea.

Explicit teaching 

Although I am a huge proponent of teaching grammar in context, we can forget that students DO need some explicit instruction. I think that in education the pendulum can often swing too far one way or another. But I personally find that mixing teaching grammar in context with mini lessons that isolate each skill is the best way to reach all learners. 

In fact, I always introduce a new grammar skill to my students through a minilesson. We take notes and look at examples and non-examples. Once my students have at least a basic understanding of the skill, we can start looking at it in context. This prepares my students to participate in the discussions we will have as we examine different mentor sentences. 

Give opportunities to apply what they are learning independently or with a partner 

Once my students are familiar with a grammar concept, it is time to apply it. There are two basic ways that I like to do that in my classroom: during our writing workshop and during literacy centers. 

I love using the writing workshop model in my classroom. Whenever we are working on revising and editing, I like to highlight one specific area that my students should work on to improve their writing. Their knowledge of adjectives and adverbs helps them revise their writing to make it more descriptive. Their knowledge of the proper use of capital letters helps them ensure that all words that need to be capitalized, are capitalized. Without the skills they are learning during our grammar block, it would be difficult for my students to do that. 

Another way that my students apply what they are learning in our grammar block is by looking for examples of each skill in their reading. We do this during our literacy center block. This is very similar to what we do with our mentor sentences. Students are actively seeking examples of different grammar skills in the books they are reading. Often, they are also evaluating how the author could have chosen to share the same message in a different way. ‘

Picture of a grammar scavenger hunt activity with the title "How to teach grammar in fun ways."
Teaching grammar in fun ways does not have to be difficult. You don’t have to spend hours coming up with a new activity every week. Instead, focus on setting up a predictable system that includes fun activities that can be done every week. Predictability will help you plan your lessons and set expectations in class.

How to teach grammar in fun ways 

If you made it all the way to this section of this blog post, you must be wondering, “How do I make this work in my classroom?” “I still don’t know how to teach grammar in fun ways!” I get it! I am the type of person who needs examples too. So, without any further ado, let me share with you some ideas of how to teach grammar in fun ways in your own classroom. 

Use mentor sentences 

Mentor sentences are a great way to make grammar fun in the classroom because they are very engaging. My students love analyzing the work of published authors. Our mentor sentence routine includes:

👉 analyzing a mentor sentence that highlights a specific skill 

👉 comparing the mentor sentence to another similar sentence 

👉 writing our own sentences using the highlighted skill 

👉 completing an assessment 

👉 practicing the skill during our literacy centers 

If you would like to learn more about my mentor sentence routine, you can click here to read a blog post about it. If you are a dual-language teacher, this blog post explains how mentor sentences can help you teach grammar in two languages simultaneously. This routine changed my life!  

Use interactive notebooks

Wondering how to teach grammar in fun ways? Use interactive notebooks! Students LOVE interactive notebooks. I love using them because it is an easy way for my students to take good notes that they will be able to use for reference in the future. 

Whenever you look for interactive notebooks, keep it simple. Look for pages that are easy to cut and are easy to put together. I also don’t like pages with a lot of clipart. That can be distracting for some students. 

I have created a few interactive notebooks for grammar in Spanish. You can check them out by clicking here. There are some digital and printable options available. More will be added soon. 

Use manipulatives   

We all know the power of manipulatives. We use them for math ALL THE TIME! But manipulatives can also be used to create fun activities to teach grammar. You can…

👉 give students elbow noodles to use as commas or quotation marks 

👉 writing compound sentences in sentence strips and asking students to split them into two complete sentences

👉 writing two complete sentences in sentence strips and asking students to put them together using a conjunction (conjunction cards) and a comma (elbow noodle)

👉 asking students to sort different word cards into parts of speech 

👉 asking students to sort subjects and predicates 

👉 asking students to sort different types of sentences (e.g. complex sentences, compound sentences, compound predicates.) 

“Manipulatives” are not just for math class! Find ways to incorporate activities that give students a chance to “move things around.” This will make the lesson memorable and will solidify students’ understanding of more complex concepts, such as compound sentences.

Use gestures

Another way to make grammar fun for your students is to use gestures to help them remember some of the rules you are teaching. Total Physical Response (TPR) is often used to teach vocabulary words, especially in bilingual and dual-language programs. But TPR can be used to reinforce learning in all areas. 

I like to create body movements to help trigger students’ memory and create links between verbal and physical input. Here are some examples of how you can use TPR to teach grammar:

👉 run in place to show that verbs show action 

👉 punch the air to remind students to add periods to their sentences 

👉 stretch your arms in front of you and place one hand on top of the other (palms facing down) to show that pronouns replace nouns 

👉 make a slicing motion in the air to show commas 

👉 stretch your arms in front of you (palms facing). Move both arms outward to show a complete sentence

PRO TIP: Get students involved! They should be doing these motions with you. This is great because it gets them up and moving. My French teacher used to do this in class to teach us directional words. Those are the only words in French that I remember to this day. This strategy WORKS!!! You can even ask students to help you come up with some of these actions. 

TIP FOR DUAL LANGUAGE TEACHERS: TPR is a great strategy to help students make linguistic connections. If you would like to learn more about TPR and other teaching strategies that can help you reach your language learners, I can help. Click here to download a FREE guide with nine teaching strategies to promote bilingualism and biliteracy.

Use activities that foster exploration  

I love to provide students with opportunities to apply the grammar skills they are learning throughout the school year. I want my students to be curious about language by analyzing how grammar impacts the work of other writers. My favorite way to do this is with grammar scavenger hunts. 

In my classroom, I have a grammar scavenger hunt station. My students absolutely love it! Here is how it works: 

👉 I digitally assign a scavenger hunt board to my students using Seesaw. Each square on the board has a grammar skill they must look for in their reading. 

👉 My students use whatever they are reading independently to look for examples of each skill. 

👉 They snap a picture of what they found and add it to their digital boards. They can also use the drawing and writing tools available on Seesaw to explain what is in the picture (that is a requirement for some of the skills in my scavenger hunt boards.) 

👉When they are done, they submit their scavenger hunt boards. 

My students grew so much with this ongoing exploration activity. The best part is that, because students are exploring their own reading materials to complete this activity, we can reuse the boards over and over again. Every time they use a new book, they are essentially completing a brand new activity. 

If you would like to give this activity a try, you can get it for FREE by clicking here. It includes three differentiated grammar boards. Printable, Google Slides, and Seesaw versions are available in English and Spanish. I promise you will love it! 

There you have it… 

… how to teach grammar in fun ways in the upper elementary classroom. I hope you were able to get some ideas to implement in your own classroom. Before you leave, don’t forget to grab your FREEBIES:

Click here for the FREE scavenger hunt boards! 

Click here for the FREE strategies guide! 

Happy teaching! 

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Hi, I'm Rebeca!

I help upper elementary dual language teachers with resources and ideas that promote bilingualism and biliteracy.  

Learn more about me and how I can help you here.

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