Grammar can be fun!

One of the biggest surprises to me as I homeschooled my sons was that grammar could be fun. I had hated grammar growing up, so I knew this would be a tremendous challenge for me to teach. When I decided to Homeschool I also decided that I would try to find an interesting way to address each topic. I might not be able to make each subject truly FUN, but I was determined to keep it interesting. With grammar, a fun approach fell into my lap in the form of madlibs. These goofy fill-in-the-blank stories soon had the boys rolling on the couch laughing at their choices of adjective, adverb or interjection. They learned about these parts of speech as they snorted and howled.

With boys at just the right age for bathroom humor, their favorite verb was “toot”. And they quickly mastered verb tenses - “tooted” and “toots”. “Drools” was another go-to verb. Favorite adjectives included: sticky, slimy, gooey, and smelly. Favorite adverbs: desperately, tearfully and famously. Favorite nouns: barf (which also joined the verb list), underwear, toilet, diaper and armpit. I pass along these time tested favorites, because if you, their parent, actually conjure up one of these crowd pleasers you will see an admiration in the eyes of your child that is usually only seen at Christmas when you pull off a spectacular gift that catches them unaware. You can pull off your own “shock and awe” performance.

As you endure the bathroom humor that makes you roll your eyes and your kids roll on the floor, just remember that this really works. They will remember their early grammar with a fondness that we have never known could be connected to the English language.

We also made use of the Schoolhouse Rock videos to introduce parts of speech. “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, get your adverbs here!”, “Unpack your adjectives”, and the one about interjections quickly became favorites. Don’t just watch them casually. Use the video to introduce the component of grammar and then do a little practice. Take sentences and have the kids swap out the adjectives or adverbs with an alternate choice. How does that change the meaning of the sentence? If you start with “I’m sorry,” he cried softly and change the verb to snarled or snapped, it’s a whole new situation. If you switch out the adverb to loudly or angrily, it again changes things dramatically. Have the kids read their lines aloud with the appropriate emotion for each transformation. Experiencing grammar is much more memorable than simply enduring grammar.

When the boys were a little older we played another version of this sort of game with a thesaurus. We took a paragraph and replaced as many words as we could with alternate words that had similar meanings, using our thesaurus. We shared them aloud. Sometimes we had a theme for the activity, such as: make it sound scary or make it sound alien or make it sound like a hyped up advertisement. These themes guided our word choices. Then we’d read the new paragraph and the original back to back.

At Christmas and birthday time as the kids worked on their thank you notes I often reminded them to add some pleasant adjectives to their composed text. This was a helpful review of their earlier practice with grammar. You’ll find other ways to bring grammar practice into their work and they won’t mind at all because it’s FUN!

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