Use This Grammar Trick

Use this fast grammar trick with any lesson plan.

Looking for a grammar trick? This one is simple, and it will provide students with a new way of looking at grammar.

When I create my grammar lesson plans, I factor in starts and stops.

Most lesson plans require tweaking: a switch of days, extended study times. With grammar, I automatically schedule extra time.

Some grammar is a review for my high school students; they understand parts of speech and parts of a sentence. More difficult concepts like “verbals” and “complex sentences”? Phew. My students stop and stress. They complain they can’t learn (insert whatever concept). Sometimes they email me, upset over grammar.

In my first few years of teaching grammar, I handled this with my students through “tough love.” I wanted them to understand that they could understand these concepts, they would learn them with my help, and they would experience success. Still. Sometimes they worried about grammar so much that it interfered getting through the lessons.

I needed to change something, my approach or the material. After trial and error, and desperation, I used a metaphor one day. This goofy metaphor worked, and what was an impulsive add-on became a part of many grammar discussions in my class.

The grammar trick? Add figurative language.

Looking for a grammar trick? This one is simple and will work with any grammar lesson plan.

I tell students that grammar (and its concepts) are fruit. All of grammar is a fruit, and there are many kinds of fruit.

They might roll their eyes, but it calms them! Look:

A noun could be… an apple. Apples are common, and so are nouns. We study types of nouns: concrete/ abstract, proper/ common, and on. We could study types of apples: Granny Smith, McIntosh, and Honeycrisp to name a few.

Continue! Pronouns – oranges? Valencia, mandarin, and navel.

You get the idea.

When I introduce verbals, student sometimes say that they have never heard of a gerund, participle, or infinitive. I ask them if they’ve heard of a breadfruit or noni. Normally, no – they think I’ve imagined those fruits. We discuss that simply because a word or concept is new and strange, we can still learn it.

And yes: when we review grammar, I tell my students we are making a fruit salad with sentences.

The point of all this silliness? Students get worked up over grammar. They stress before they’ve given themselves an opportunity to succeed. A bit of figurative language, a bit of understanding and compassion helps with grammar lesson plans.

Since grammar seems foreign to my students, I now prepare for their worries and concerns. Lessons work better than they once did.

This grammar trick has served me well for years. I’d love to add more jokes (trust me, I get lots of eye rolling) to my teaching repertoire. Do you use any tricks when teaching grammar?

If you need pre-made materials to show students the differences between grammar concepts, I’ve created an entire system of presentations, scaffolded practice, student note sheets, task cards, and more in the Often Confused Grammar Concepts Bundle. You can see each section pictured. 

Confusing grammar concepts? Try this quick grammar tip and activities.

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  • Jimmy Leonard

    I like it! Our ELA team uses the metaphor of cars driving in a caravan for clauses. Independent clauses are cars that follow each other or drive by themselves, while dependent clauses are trailers (or luggage racks) that need to be pulled. Thanks for the post!

    • (author)

      That’s great! I use cars to demonstrate run on sentences. I tell students that it is a car wreck. If I’m really goofy, I draw the cars with their sentences. I think goofy helps with grammar.

  • Simon Fosu

    You helped me a great deal! It’s been awesome! I’m learning a lot from you. I’m in I’d like to pursue in English Language teaching. which school would you recommend to me and how can I apply? I’m a Ghanaian. Thank you.

    • Lauralee (author)

      I’m glad that I helped! I am not sure about directing you. I’ve never been an ESL teacher, and I fear I would mislead you. There are groups on Facebook… if you wanted to join one.

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