What grammar lesson do you want your students to see?
The approach we take with each grammar lesson will influence how our students interact with future discussions concerning language. (I often use both terms “grammar” and “language” because of how the standards are written.) The planning and our mindset contributes to what our students eventually see and experience.
Before you write a grammar lesson, think about the type of message you want to send students. Typically with grammar, teachers share with me that they want to:
- connect grammar to writing
- teach grammar in context
- engage students with grammar
- meet standards
- use mentor sentences
All of these are great goals! My goals for grammar lessons are similar. Because I enjoy teaching grammar and find success with teaching grammar with secondary students, I want to outline my thought process when I build a grammar lesson.
This post aims to walk you through my thought process when drafting a grammar lesson, and provide extra support for you! If you want to write dynamic grammar lessons that meet your goals, I have lesson planning guides for you.
Decide on your approach.
You can teach grammar. Just like any component of teaching, the first few times through lessons, you might stumble. Reflect and regroup. I know many teachers worry about bombing a grammar lesson, but with practice, you will surprise yourself by implementing grammar into all areas of your classroom.
What do I mean by “approach”? I will share mine in case it will help you!
My approach started with what I disliked: I never wanted to be the teacher who corrected “can I” to “may I.” I did not want to sparse over split infinitives. I didn’t want to be a grammar cop. I really thought grammar was only memorization, and really, studying a living language is so much more.
And that is ok. To meet the standards, you don’t need one (outdated) approach.
My approach is to connect grammar to other parts of class. I teach grammar in context to writing, literature, and informational texts. Knowing my approach shapes my grammar lessons.
Talk about the grammar lesson positively.
Don’t set you and your students up for failure. I once did this. I would tell students that even though none of us wanted to study grammar, we had to do so.
First, I really wish I had not done that, and I really regret that approach. At the time, I thought honesty was building a relationship with my students because when I began teaching grammar, I did not enjoy it. What I learned… some students relate to literature, nonfiction, and speeches through a grammatical lens. Some students enjoy ELA because they enjoy the language! It was very unfair of me to say that to those students.
Second, that message sets the entire grammar lesson up for failure or at least for boredom. Learning about our language can be an adventure. It shouldn’t be a chore.
Finally, students can interpret our nonverbal cues and our beliefs. If we are not enthusiastic about a lesson, they know it. If we teach grammar every day, that is maybe fifty minutes a week of students perceiving boredom or aggravation from us.
Our approach in presenting a grammar lesson matters.
Look at the standards.
I keep a hard copy of standards on my desk so that I can reference them as I lesson plan. You should find a process that works for you. I know that many teachers have the standards in a spreadsheet for ease of copying and pasting.
So! I look at my standards, for example. . . in ninth grade language arts, a language standard is: Use various types of phrases and clauses to convey specific meanings and add variety and interest to writing or presentations.
Immediately, I know that students need to review the differences between phrases and clauses, basic comma rules, and the types of phrases and clauses. When I start my grammar lesson, I’ll need to review. If students don’t understand previous concepts, I’ll need to teach more basic concepts. I would frontload the definitions and rules. By ninth grade, student should know how an adjective functions, the list of prepositions, etc. I would also show examples of each type of phrase and clause in writing. I’ll write down all of what students need to know and create activities around that knowledge.
Then, I think of how I can connect the grammar concepts to writing. Now, the writing lesson can be connected to literature, or the writing assignment can simply be an abstract topic. The writing also does not need to be formal. An exit ticket with the application of phrases and clauses will work.
When students work on meeting this particular standard, I would allow and encourage students to use their notes and guidelines. Doing so circles away from that old mindset that grammar is only to be memorized. Understanding our language is a more holistic endeavor.
I brainstorm the best way to meet the standards before I actually draft the grammar lesson like with my phrase and clause lesson. So many times, we teachers can scaffold a lesson back and then present more complicated information.
Write the grammar lesson.
Finally, after I have the standard and the skeleton of the grammar lesson, I’ll write out the lesson. In my lesson, I’ll address:
- what to frontload
- where to scaffold
- when group or partner work is appropriate
- what practice students will need (anticipate struggles)
- the final assessment
Be prepared to model your thinking through language use the same as you would model another lesson. Verbalize how you construct or find a phrase. Students (most likely) can create a phrase, but punctuating it correctly might require another explanation.
Include modeling and a “walkthrough” in each grammar lesson. Provide a few examples in your lesson that demonstrates the choices a writer makes between using either a phrase or a clause.
That is my thought process as I create a grammar lesson.
Are you looking to ramp up every grammar lesson you write this coming school year? I will chat about connecting grammar lessons to other key elements of an ELA class almost every day in my Facebook group, Grammar Gurus.
I know that teachers get nervous about creating a grammar lesson, and the FB page is private so that we can be honest with each other about our struggles and questions. It is a no judgement zone, and I’d love to see you there!
You can also join my mailing list to gain access to a dozen grammar activities: