No, the title is not an oxymoron: you really can have fun with grammar. Admittedly, I love grammar, but I realize that most people don’t share my strange affinity for prepositional phrases, pronouns, and punctuation. That’s no reason for torturing your kids with dry grammar worksheets and tedious sessions of circling, underlining, and crossing out.
I’m not saying you should toss away your grammar books. But I do encourage you to take a break now and then, whether for a day or a whole year, and reinforce concepts (or learn new ones) by playing games. You don’t have to buy board games, although these can also be an excellent addition to your grammar studies, especially for older students. (Check out the plethora of grammar games at Educational Learning Games. I’d love to have a bunch of these for our homeschool classroom!)
The internet is loaded with fun grammar exercises, like the ones on Go Grammar. This site has links to dozens of other sites with grammar exercises for all ages disguised as games. If you need more than these, just do a quick Google search for “grammar games” and you’ll have an overwhelming number of options.
But I think what kids remember more than board games or internet games are simple, hands-on activities. Here are a few examples to get you started.
Parts of Speech Charades
You can play this in a number of different ways. For younger learners, try just noun and verb pantomimes. For older learners, try putting together adjective/noun and verb/adverb combinations.
Instruct each player to think of a noun. You might wish to pick categories, such as animals, vacation spots, or famous people. The first player then acts out the noun. From here, you can move on to verbs and then to combinations. For a verb/adverb combo, for example, the player might first act out “running” and, after that is guessed correctly, acting out “slowly.”
Cut out a bunch of words from magazine and newspaper headlines and ads. Have students put the words into piles or envelopes labeled with the various parts of speech. Be sure to have a “more than one” pile for words that can be more than one part of speech (fly, for example).
With those same words cut out from magazines/newspapers or with new ones, let kids make crazy sentences. The one stipulation is that each part of speech must be used correctly. Here is an example of words collected from five different headlines in my local paper: The doctor provides food for thought and shares rock ‘n’ roll dictionaries.
Find some age-appropriate newspaper or magazine articles. Make enough copies of each for every player. Designate one article for pronouns, one for adjectives, one for nouns, one for verbs, and one for adverbs. (You could also do conjunctions, prepositions, helping verbs, etc.) Have a race to see who can cricle the most of whichever part of speech in each article. (This seems to work best of you stick with just one part of speech per article.) If racing creates conflict in your family, just have each student do this on his/her own. Parents should do it, too!
Bean Bag Toss
You’ll need a bean bag and a large piece of paper with 8” X 8” squares marked on it. Each one should be labeled with a type of noun (person, place, thing or idea). Take turns tossing the bean bag onto a square. The student should then identify something that matches that type of noun. For example, if the beanbag lands on “place,” he could yell out “farm!” You could get more complicated with this game if you’d like with more parts of speech or specify proper or common nouns, etc.
Parts of Speech Christmas Tree
This is a craft, not a game, but how fun is this Parts of Speech Christmas Tree? Perfect for the upcoming season. You could also make a cornucopia with various words spilling out for Thanksgiving!
Facebook Faux Pas
For older kids, try an occasional dose of what I call Facebook Faux Pas. If you have a Facebook account, you know that the examples are ample. All you have to do is scan your news feed for grammatically incorrect status updates and especially those silly “likes” that teens subscribe to at alarming rates. (I advise keeping the status updates anonymous, so that your kid doesn’t mortify his or her friends with a “you have terrible grammar” comment.) Just copy and paste a few of these errors into a document and have your student proofread and correct them. For example,
Thank you SO Much for the Happy Birthday wishes, it makes my day a littel more special, I have some great friends and Family and your all amazing!!!!!
Or a favorite of mine: I sprang my knee an I cant get up!!!!
My fellow homeschoolers stress out about grammar almost as much as they do about math. I hear “They hate grammar” as much as “They hate math!” My advice: Take some time out from your regular grammar studies. Your kids really will turn out OK if you skip a day, a week, a month or even a whole year or more of traditional grammar workbooks. You have permission; now go have fun!
Sarah Small is in her eleventh year of homeschooling. She has two students left at home, a fourth grader and an eighth grader, and one in college. She has her master’s degree in creative writing and enjoys teaching writing and literature classes at her local co-op . She writes about homeschooling, family, and life in general at SmallWorld at Home. She also offers SmallWorld’s WordSmithery, an ongoing series of free creative writing lessons.