Grammar lessons: weeks 1 – 9.
Grammar lessons for those first weeks of school. Hmmmmmm. I have a method, a method that I created after years of experience. I’ve detailed it below.
First! I don’t pretend that these older students have never heard these terms before. I know they have, but they probably don’t know them well enough for the manipulation and analysis for which older students should strive.
As a general guide, I’ve provided headers in bold. Read the specifics underneath because I work to overlap the material while differentiating for all the levels in my classes.
Also? I don’t think there is one “right” way for grammar lessons. This works for me during the first quarter of the school year – both for eighth graders and freshmen. (I complete abbreviated and extended versions of this outline for sophomores and seventh graders). Take what works for your students.
This contains the material for my grammar lessons for the first nine weeks of school, but for those with grammar material already, this method will work for you too.
Week One: Pretest/ Nouns
I start with a pretest. I take information from the pretest and divide it into areas for improvement. I divide students who need more help with prepositions, conjunctions, verbs, and modifiers. I provide that information to students and tell them that we’ll work to improve those areas.
After the pretest, I begin with direct instruction with nouns. Students may take notes however they wish – many choose note cards, but some choose flipping books. Since my high school students feel that the eight parts of speech are “babyish” – I try to give them freedom in certain areas, like with note taking.
I have a master Powerpoint that is our “home base” concerning the material. All of our assignments branch from there. We will work through identifying nouns that first week in an assortment of ways – worksheets, task cards, coloring sheets, centers, and grammar manipulations.
When students arrive on a Monday, I give the direct instruction over the concept. Students practice – often together or with me.
The following days of the week, we reinforce that skill. It might be direct grammar materials, but it might also be through vocabulary or mentor sentences.
When students complete an assignment (for instance in week one, nouns), they move onto the area I’ve told them to study from their pretest. (This is also another option for when they finish their other class work).
Students work on prepositions, conjunctions, verbs, or modifiers as extension work. Sometimes they have a specific exercise – like reviewing an online website or a Powerpoint I gave them. Other times, they practice their additional skill with the noun practice – they simply highlight that concept in a new color.
Another option for differentiation (that I base on that pretest) is for me to sit with different groups. Students who need to practice prepositions, for example, benefit from a quick review with me. Since they struggled in that area on the pretest, I don’t worry about their being bored during the direct instruction in subsequent weeks.
At this point in their schooling, these students have covered all of the parts of speech before. They still need review, and by giving them extra practice, I’m hoping they see success with this.
NOTE! I repeat this format for direct instruction and practice in the following weeks. If students begin to excel with their extra practice (from the pretest), I will switch them out.
Week Two: Pronouns, not relative pronouns
Pronouns – so many of them! My students make anchor charts of pronouns. I practice all pronouns except relative pronouns with students. I cover indefinite, personal, compound personal, interrogative, and demonstrative. (Whew).
I acknowledge this is tons of material, and that is why we cover it so early. I remind students that for subject-verb agreement (especially with indefinite pronouns), they will need to know them.
When learning large chunks like pronouns, I’ve found it helpful to both continuously find those pronouns in other areas of class, and to also explain to students why they will use that information later.
Week Three: Verbs
Students must be able to locate a verb, and they must know the difference between an action and linking verb. I once taught verbs after adjectives, but to reinforce both nouns and pronouns, I switched.
With verbs, I tell students they must memorize linking verbs. I help them: you can read how I “act out” verbs. This really sticks, and students run through that process when deciding if a verb is a linking or action one.
I consult with students who were already working on verbs and see if they need more practice, or if they would like to get a new Powerpoint/ practice goals for a new part of speech. This gives them a choice in the situation.
Week Four: Adjectives and Adverbs
For modifiers, we have two direct instruction days. We cover adjectives and practice with nouns and pronouns. Normally on Wednesday, we have direct instruction over adverbs. This creates a loop of practice of everything we have studies so far.
I continue to consult with students about their pretest practice. I start switching students, assigning new Powerpoints and practice sheets based on what they feel they need. As we continue, students are often all reviewing different concepts at different times.
Week Five: Prepositions, with more adjectives and adverbs review
Most students find prepositions easy once they familiarize themselves with the list. They even find prepositions fun – they are amazed at how many we use in our writing and speaking.
The biggest part of studying prepositions is to find the objects – which then loops back to nouns and pronouns.
Week Six: Conjunctions, not subordinating conjunctions
Much like pronouns, I don’t teach all conjunctions the first week; I cover all except for subordinating conjunctions. Most students understand FANBOYS and will recognize the pieces of correlative conjunctions. (I give them the visual that they are puzzle pieces, and they must find the missing piece of the puzzle).
After student see the sentence format for conjunctive adverbs, they are comfortable with them. When students have trouble with conjunctions, I have them keep the lists on their desks as we practice.
Of course, conjunctions join the previously studied parts of speech, and I will add on quick practice. Ask students to identify what is joined or to label all the nouns (for example) in their sentences.
Week Seven: Subordinating conjunctions, subjects
This week, I already start review, but I add in subordinating conjunctions. Students write those and keep that list on their desks. In our final assessments, I do not test over those just yet. Students struggle with those, so I give them extra time for mastery.
I will often walk students through finding the subordinating conjunctions, and then we will find the conjunction’s subject (a noun or a pronoun) and verb. We will discuss if the noun, pronoun, and verb have any modifiers.
Week Eight: “Big Picture”
I mention interjections, which normally takes five minutes.
We start to put all of these together, more so than we have in previous weeks. I run through sentences with them and demonstrate how they can now label each word in a sentence.
I will also have students write sentences for me, and I will deconstruct them. That is actually a practice I continue all year – students try to “stump” me with difficult sentences to label.
Week Nine: Reviews and Assessments
We have final assessments, some of which might float into the tenth week dependent upon holidays. My favorite is to bring in food and analyze the ways language is used in real life. (Plus the kids get to eat).
Next, we move onto parts of a sentence, but as I like to tell students, they already have the foundation for that. They are looking at the language in a new way with different purposes. They have the foundation – the eight parts of speech.
- Build. Week one, we study nouns, but we never stop studying them. We identify nouns in relation to adjectives, in the stories we read, and in the vocabulary we study.
- A message I always send students is that grammar is like building blocks. We’re laying the foundation. I trust that they know nouns, and we continue to study them. You can watch this free video that details how I talk to students about the “big picture” of grammar.
- I don’t ignore subjects and verbs. Older students know those terms. When we identify verbs, I ask students to find the subject – which is probably reviewing nouns and pronouns.
- I do expect all students to have a grasp of the eight parts of speech, and I encourage students to teach each other. Older students can show each other tricks and develop anchor charts for the class. Since they are older, I give them as much ownership as possible.
- Again, I never stop talking about the parts of speech. I make it a point to mention if an author uses an abundance of prepositional phrases, or repeats a noun, or is vague with pronoun use. Students should realize that grammar filters into all parts of an ELA class!
This is everything I use for the first quarter, or the first nine weeks with my grammar lessons.
Please (please!) take what you can use from this outline and make it your own. I hope this provides a base for those first months of school.