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8 Grammar Games to Add Sparkle to Literacy Lessons

Dip in and out of these quick and practical ideas by Rob Smith and Katherine Simpson during literacy...

  • 8 Grammar Games to Add Sparkle to Literacy Lessons

1 | Word class tennis

Sit children in pairs facing each other. Call out a word class, eg ‘verb’. Pupils take turns to say a verb without long pauses or repeating one that has already been said. Extend this idea by giving specific instructions such as regular past tense verbs, nouns beginning with a specific letter or adjectives to describe a specific subject.

2 | Guess who?

Give out a grid of different creatures, in a similar format to the game ‘Guess Who?’. Use one theme for all of the pictures, eg dragons. Ask the children to play in pairs. They need to select an image and try to guess their opponent’s one by asking yes/no questions using expanded noun phrases. For example, is it a bright red dragon? Is it a dragon with spikes on its head? Once the children have guessed who their opponent’s character is, they can begin to construct some expanded noun phrases about the other characters in the grid.

3 | Double trouble

Ask children to sit in pairs and distribute the same image to each child (a butterfly or tree, for example). Give pupils two minutes to write down as many adjectives to describe the image as possible. At the end of the two minutes, children should take it in turns to call out an adjective. If their opponent also has that word, both players need to cross out the adjective. Continue until both children are left with words that their opponent doesn’t have.

4 | How, where and when?

Share an image, such as Harry Potter flying on a broomstick, and ask the children to write a sentence on their whiteboards to explain what is happening, using a verb. Next, shout either ‘manner’, ‘time’ or ‘place’. Pupils now need to come up with an ending for their sentence using an appropriate adverbial phrase, eg ‘with great care’, ‘just before his potions lesson’ or ‘over the Quidditch pitch’.

5 | Write the ending

Provide children with the endings to colon sentences. Ask them what might have gone before the colon, eg ‘: the boat wasn’t big enough for six people’ might become ‘It was then that he delivered the dreadful news: the boat wasn’t big enough for six people.’ Give out a sheet of paper to each table, with colon sentence openings or endings written on it. Explain that the children need to work as a team and think of the missing information for each sentence.

6 | Semicolon pairs

Give out an array of independent clauses which could be joined with a semicolon. Ask the children to get up and move around the classroom to find their partner. Examples might include, ‘It was an incredibly hot day; our ice-creams melted within minutes’ or ‘The tiger escaped from the zoo; safety checks on the enclosures were poor’. Make a list of pairings and write them on the board with a semicolon between.

7 | Begin at the end

Ask pupils to sit in pairs. Give the children a noun type, eg ‘common’. The first child needs to think of a common noun; the second child then responds with another common noun which begins with the final letter of the first word, eg ‘table’ followed by ‘egg’. Children must not duplicate words. During this time, cruise the classroom to assess the children’s understanding and correct misconceptions.

8 | Silly sentences

Before the lesson, prepare a set of cards per table featuring ten adverbs of frequency, 20 common nouns with articles (the dog, an apple, etc) and 20 verbs in the present tense.

Children must build sentences by randomly selecting cards from each pile and replacing them once they have been used. Each sentence must start with ‘I’.

There can be some hilarious outcomes, eg ‘I often paint the lion’, ‘I regularly walk the laptop’. Ask the children to record these in their books and then play again.

Rob Smith and Katherine Simpson are the creators of The Literacy Shed (@literacyshed). These tips are adapted from 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Literacy (£14.99, Bloomsbury).

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