3 strategies to help children learn grammar
This is part 4 of a series of blogs to enumerate skills essential to building literacy among students. Read our blog on reading skills here, vocabulary skills here, and conversations during read-alouds here. This week we focus on grammar.
Knowledge of grammar rules helps us to not only speak and write with clarity, but also understand what we read and hear effectively. How can parents, teachers and other caregivers ensure that children not only learn correct grammar but also enjoy learning it? Here are 3 strategies to keep in mind!
1. Lots of listening, lots of reading
Children first learn the unspoken rules of grammar by listening – they listen to conversations around them, to what is being said to them, and to fairy tales, fables, rhymes and songs. Next, they pick up the more formal rules of grammar by reading stories, articles and other texts. No matter how young or old a child is, listening to grammatically correct conversations and reading well-written texts are the most important ways of learning the rules of grammar. As with all other literacy skills, surrounding the child with resources for these is the first step.
2. Wait, Rephrase
Every parent and teacher hears children make several grammatical mistakes in conversations. In such a situation, it is best to wait for the child to finish what she is saying and acknowledge that you’ve understood her, and at the same time rephrase her sentence so that it is grammatically correct. This is how such a conversation would flow:
Child: I wants to read a book now. I don’t want to eat!
You: You want to read a book? Can you say, “I want to read a book”?
Child: I want to read a book.
You: Which book do you want to read?
Child: I want to read [book name].
By first acknowledging that you’ve heard and understood the child, we let the child know that making mistakes is okay, that we will still understand them, and that learning rules of grammar is not something to be scared of. Rephrasing their sentences correctly gives them a chance to hear a grammatically correct sentence, which is a much more effective way of learning than simply being told what mistake they’ve made.
3. Learning by applying
Grammar cannot and should not be learnt as just rules. Some grammar rules, like contracting words (are not to aren’t, is not to isn’t) require practice to memorise the rule, but that is just the first step. Learning grammar depends entirely on how many chances you get to apply the rules in speaking and in writing. Let’s look at an example:
The word would is the past tense of will.
· The baby will go to sleep at 9.
· The baby just wouldn’t go to sleep last night!
Yet, we use would to talk about the future as well:
· If it rained tomorrow, I would still go to school.
There are very specific rules about when would is used to talk about the future – but memorizing these rules and completing Fill in the blanks exercises won’t help much. (If you stopped to remember grammar rules each time you used will and would, you would never be able to finish a sentence!) The key is to apply these rules by talking and writing about the past and the future. This can be done in the form of role-playing exercises, short skits, and writing diary entries about what happened and what you want in the future.
Grammar games, conversation cards and writing exercises in unboxED literacy boxes make learning grammar fun and give the child plenty of opportunities to apply what they’ve learnt in speaking and writing.
unboxED offers the child and educator resources to build a growth mindset while exploring Literacy and STEM concepts through conversations and creation, and letting kids be kids. These products have been built keeping in mind the academic and cognitive skills needed at various stages of the child’s development.