Active and passive voice KS2 – Worksheets, ideas and resources
Whether you want your students to learn the active voice, or you want the passive voice taught to them, these resources will help your upper KS2 classes to get to grips with the differences between the two…
- by Teachwire
Are you looking for active and passive voice KS2 resources? Here you’ll find worksheets, teaching ideas and examples to help you cover this area of the curriculum.
What is active voice?
An example of an active sentence is “The boy stroked the cat.” This sentence has an active verb – “stroked”. The subject of the verb is “the boy” – the person who did the action.
Another active sentence example is “The girl popped the balloon.” The subject of the verb is “the girl” – the person who did the action. Here, “popped” is an active verb.
What is passive voice?
A passive verb is used when the subject of the verb is the thing or person that has something done to it.
This sentence has a passive verb: “The rock was thrown by the child.” The subject of the verb is “the rock” – the thing that had something done to it (being thrown by the child).
The passive voice is useful when it is not known who did the action. For example, “The cake had been eaten.” The passive is often used to emphasise what happened, rather than who did something.
Active and passive voice KS2 examples
Active voice examples
- The pupil read the book.
- The whole family ate the meal.
- Susan will paint the wall.
- I haven’t written the essay yet.
Passive voice examples
- The book was read by the pupil.
- The meal was being eaten by the whole family.
- The wall will be painted by Susan.
- The essay had not yet been written.
Teaching ideas for active and passive voice KS2
Rewrite Little Red Riding Hood
Use the story of Little Red Riding Hood to explore how the use of grammar in this text makes an impact on the reader, says literacy consultant Kate Ruttle…
Challenge the children in your class to create some tension in a modern retelling of Little Red Riding Hood by using passives:
- She had been told not to talk to strangers.
- She was being watched as she picked the flowers.
- As she crossed the room, each of her footsteps was carefully counted.
Clarify that the reason for using passives in a story can be because the agent is not important, but is more likely to be in order to hide the agent and create tension or suspense. Can this story work as a suspense story?
As a class or individually, write your own version of the fairytale with lots of examples of passive sentences.
Activities that engage children with grammatical structures, and which make them question and explore their use, are likely to improve standards in children’s own writing far more effectively than decontextualised sentence-writing in weekly grammar lessons.
Kate Ruttle is a literacy consultant and primary school teacher of 30 years. She has written the Cracking Comprehension and Cracking Writing resources for Rising Stars.
Invent cracking contraptions
How can we teach active and passive voice in a way that’s fun for children, and in a way it will stick? Primary English adviser Rebecca Cosgrave investigates…
First things first, it’s crucial that we use assessment to find out what children already know and understand in a given area.
In assessing understanding we need to encourage children to explain and demonstrate, rather than just answer a question. With active and passive voice, children will need to:
- Know what verbs are and be able to identify them in a sentence
- Know that verbs are often expressed as more than one word (she was sitting, had been sitting, etc)
- Understand what a sentence is and be able to recognise its main parts (subject, verb, object, adverbial)
Guided diagnostic activity
One way to assess this is through a guided diagnostic activity with different parts of sentences on cards. Children build sentences and articulate their understanding as they go. For example:
- What do you need to make a sentence? (a noun / noun phrase and a verb / verb phrase)
- How do you know that’s a sentence? (it must have a subject and verb, and be grammatically complete)
- Which bit of your sentence is the subject? How do you know?
- Can you add another noun / noun phrase to your sentence? Where will it go?
- What part of the sentence is this? (object)
- How many different ways could you change the verb? (walked, had walked, was walking, might have walked, etc.). How does this change the meaning?
The next step might be to find a real text that uses passive voice really well. This enables children to see the ‘why’ of grammar learning, because they can appreciate the effect created and begin to try to create similar effects in their own writing. Passive voice can be used to:
- Create a sense of formality / objectivity
- Withhold information about who did an action
A real favourite for me is the Wallace and Gromit: Cracking Contraptions Manual which uses the Haynes Manual format and is written in a brilliantly formal, impersonal tone, but with bags of humour.
The passive is used frequently to create the style. For example: “It is constructed from lightweight armoured material…” and “Once deployed, the high-tension spring and boxing glove are retrieved…”.
1 | Play with sentence structure, starting with active voice
Identify the subject, verb and object in this sentence: “The wearer (S) pushed (V) a large red button (O)”.
Write the parts of the sentence on cards that children can move around. How would we write the sentence if we started with the object? Explore how you have to change the verb in order to do this:
“A large red button (O) is pushed (V) by the wearer (S)”
Discuss how the passive form of the verb is constructed (by using its past participle, after any tense of the verb ‘to be’). Children can then play around with other sentences in the active voice, and swap them into the passive.
The key learning here is to secure the structure but also to discuss the effect of using the passive voice. How is the sentence different for the reader? What does it imply or make you think?
2 | Have a go at using this effect
Explain your own invention using the passive construction. Perhaps the class could invent the perfect teacher’s chair:
“The seat is covered in extremely firm fabric to deter people from sitting for too long. The back of the chair has been designed to eject if the teacher sits for more than five minutes.”
Ask children to create their own designs and write an explanation in the style of Cracking Contraptions, using the passive to create an objective/formal tone.
3 | Explore other texts
Children will then need to consolidate their understanding by exploring the use of passive voice in the context of other texts (it is used extensively in newspaper reports).
Here is an example from Elisa Puricelli Guerra’s novel Minerva Mint and the Order of the Owl, which includes a short report as part of the story.
This morning a baby girl, just a few months old, was found in a travel bag in a waiting room at Victoria station in London.
The bag was made of leather and, allegedly, rather fancy, with the initials “MM” engraved on its brass buckle.
This offers a great way to explore why the author chose to use a newspaper report in this way, and how the style is created. Ask children to consider where and how they might use a similar technique in one of their own stories.
The key is to open up possibilities, not close them down. We can do this by placing learning firmly in the context of real text, getting children to play with grammar and articulate their thinking and understanding as they do so.
- Integrate it into all English teaching
You may have some discrete teaching sessions, but link these to wider English teaching. It maximises learning opportunities and ensures children can apply their learning purposefully.
- Use the correct terminology, always
Exemplify and use the terminology frequently and children will soon pick it up. For example, continue to refer to adjectives as adjectives and explain that they add information about the noun. Don’t be tempted to call them ‘describing words’ as this only captures one aspect of what adjectives are and what they do.
- Use a multi-sensory approach
In No Nonsense Grammar we have developed a Sentence Toolkit to help children link the name of the word type to its function. For example, a noun is an expanding tape measure so that we can demonstrate what happens when you create a noun phrase. Children might also like to develop actions to help strengthen links between the technical term and its definition.
Rebecca Cosgrave is a lead primary English adviser. Together with the team at Babcock, she wrote No Nonsense Grammar (raintree.co.uk).
Active and passive voice KS2 resources from Plazoom
Five-lesson resources pack
This powerful Key Stage 2 grammar resources pack provides everything you need to teach a series of five lessons on the passive voice in Y6, culminating in an extended writing task where children can use their grammatical understanding in context.
Y6 active and passive voice worksheet
This bright, appealing PDF grammar worksheet is an excellent way to practise and revise using the passive voice in Year 6, with SATs-style questions, opportunities for creative writing responses and with eye-catching images as prompts.
Active and passive verbs make a match game
This make a match game is a fun way for pupils in Y6 to develop their understanding of active and passive verbs. They need to match sentences that are written using the active and passive voice, exploring how the structure of sentences change when active or passive verbs are used.
Active and passive voice sentence builder game
This sentence builder game will help to develop Year 6 pupils’ understanding of active and passive verbs. Pupils will use the noun and verb cards to create sentences using the active voice, rehearsing them orally, before reorganising the cards so that the sentence is written using the passive voice.
How to find authentic evidence of passive voice
Squeezing the passive voice into stories where it doesn’t belong is not the best way to evidence that children have met key grammatical objectives. There’s a much easier approach, argues training company director Rachel Clarke…
Not so long ago I worked with some experienced and skilled Y6 teachers who were having a few problems. They needed to find evidence of key grammatical objectives for the ITAF (Interim Assessment Framework) but were struggling to find it within the written tasks they had given their pupils.
Quite unsurprisingly, one of the objectives they found challenging was ‘using passive and modal verbs mostly appropriately’ (KS2 ITAF p.4).
Making it purposeful
Experienced educators know teaching the passive voice for the spelling, grammar and punctuation test is fairly straightforward. Knowing when and where pupils will use it with purpose and for the appropriate audience is, however, quite another thing, and this was the problem for the Y6 teachers with whom I was working.
“Knowing when and where pupils will use it with purpose and for the appropriate audience is quite another thing”
They were providing children with sets of success criteria that included the passive voice and then looking for them to include it in their work.
Cue problem one: the success criteria were so prescriptive that they were influencing the independence of the work.
Problem two: the children were squeezing the passive voice into texts where it just didn’t fit.
Problem three: the teachers were manufacturing ever more writing opportunities, which created more work and stress for them and the children.
Where we go wrong
Helping my teacher colleagues solve this problem required some lateral thinking. I’ll explain.
Most teachers want children to write for purpose and audience and for their writing to be embedded in the curriculum being taught. We don’t have to do this.
We could quite easily teach grammar on one day, spelling on another and follow this with extended writing. But most of us prefer writing to have some context and be based on what’s going on in the curriculum.
This means we tend to have themes such as The Polar Regions, Life in the Stone Age, Dragons and so on.
Within these themes, teachers also use their collective expertise on genre. What we see then is diaries and letters about polar exploration, non-chronological reports about life in the Stone Age and explanation texts about how to look after a dragon.
The problem facing so many practitioners is that, having done all this wonderful writing, they can’t always reference the specific grammatical objectives for their year group.
All too often they end up doing exactly what my Y6 colleagues did; they create a new writing opportunity so that they can find evidence that pupils can use specific skills.
Match grammar to subjects
We all know the best evidence comes from children applying skills in their cross-curricular writing. However, our anxiety to shore-up grammar gaps means we’re frequently assessing through additional tasks undertaken in English lesson time. We don’t need to do this.
The way I supported my Y6 colleagues was to help them think differently about writing – to look at the objectives they need to teach and which types of writing lend themselves to these objectives.
That’s not to say that children shouldn’t write to inform, to instruct, to explain and recount previous events. They should. But they should do so as part of their mastery of different grammatical structures.
To stay with the example of passive voice used earlier, I asked my Y6 colleagues to think about what types of writing use the passive voice. They’re a sharp bunch and knew that the following are all examples of how the passive voice can be used authentically:
- scientific write-ups (“salt was added to the water…”)
- recounting events (“evacuees were transported by trains…”)
- formal persuasive texts (“it was proven…it cannot be tolerated”)
Smarter way of working
Identifying these authentic uses of the passive voice meant they could go away, look at examples of children’s writing across the curriculum and see just how well the children were using the passive voice. What it also did was sharpen their teaching focus.
If they still needed evidence of passive voice and they knew they had a science write-up to complete in the next week, they could ensure that passive voice was revised during their English provision and modelled in science so that ‘salt was added to the water…’ rather than, ‘me and Sarah added some salt to the water…’.
By knowing when we use different grammatical structures in authentic writing we can be more selective about the text types we choose to use at any given point with our children.
We need to adjust our understanding of genre so that we have a full understanding of the grammatical components of writing for different purposes. Some objectives and genres are easier than others (such as teaching instructions for command sentences).
“By knowing when we use different grammatical structures in authentic writing we can be more selective about the text types we choose”
But with a little bit thinking about the grammatical requirements of different written forms, we should be able to select activities purposefully, saving us time and ensuring that cross-curricular writing is used to showcase children’s authentic application of grammar.
Rachel Clarke is director of the training company Primary English.