There are many times during the school day where we have to teach “necessary skills”. Grammar is one of those skills. I think grammar is a funny one, though. For the most part, our children speak with proper grammar. It’s when they begin to write stories that we encounter problems with their sentence structure. But, if they can say it, then they must already know it. The goal of teaching grammar, then, should be to access a student’s ability to properly speak a sentence and apply it to the written word. Teaching grammar should involve more than just circling nouns on a worksheet or listing verbs in a large group. It should require students to speak sentences, write sentences, analyze and proofread their own literary creations.
I felt that it was important for my children to have a basic understanding of the parts of speech, but as we began to talk about them, I realized two things. The first is that I was boring myself to tears, and I couldn’t imagine how uninterested my children must have been. The second is that I didn’t completely remember the parts of speech. To be honest, I couldn’t tell you if a word was a preposition unless I sang the preposition song that I had learned in the third grade. And yes, I remember the tune of the entire song, but only some of the prepositions. However, I can read… I can write… so does it matter? Yes and no. Yes, we need to understand how our language is constructed. We need to be able to speak and write in a way that makes sense. However, our educational system seems to be so caught up on evaluating the facts that a student knows, instead of what he or she can do with those facts. Does it matter that a word is an adverb, a preposition, or an article? Will that knowledge change what we do with it? Can we give our students a basic understanding of the parts of speech without turning them off to writing all together?
So, I stopped talking about the parts of speech and thought about ways to help them “get” the parts of speech. Mad Libs were my first idea, and a great one for my older boys, who already had a basic understanding of nouns and adjectives. This, combined with an extensive vocabulary of bordering-on-inappropriate words, is pretty much all you need to play Mad Libs. We needed something more, though – something to help them to identify the parts of speech without constantly using me as the dictionary. We found the “200 More Sight Words Super Fun Deck” that I had originally purchased to help my daughter with autism learn how to read. It sat on our shelf for a while after that, but we pulled it out again to see if it could help us on our mission to better understand grammar. We were not interested in the sight words part of this deck. It came with an additional “sentence builder” deck that contained color coded cards for each part of speech. For example, all of the verbs in the deck are green. We then created a card game around the deck and we began to have fun! My boys will request to play the card game when they have free time in and out of school. They enjoy playing it just like they play “Uno” or other card games, with the added benefit that they are strengthening their abilities to write and proofread a cohesive sentence. We created the rules for this game together and they have evolved as we continue to play… give it a try and let us know if you come up with your own version!