Teaching grammar the fun way – Tips and tricks

Many teachers and students alike find grammar tedious to teach and to learn. As a result, it becomes something to avoid or get through as quickly as possible, and there can be a cloud of negativity surrounding it within ESL classrooms.

But do not fear! In this article, we will be outlining ways to avoid boring approaches to grammar and to suggest alternative methods for making it more interesting and a better experience for both you and your students.

“The past, the present and the future walked into a bar. It was tense!”
– Lex Martin

So let’s get started. Here are our top 5 tips for teaching grammar in a more enjoyable and entertaining way!

1 – Make your grammar points relevant to your student’s lives

If students can’t see the point of learning a particular grammar point, and it seemingly has no connection to their lives, they will often turn off and lose interest. This can be an issue, for example, with course books that may use outdated examples or scenarios that mean very little to your classes.

So to overcome this, make sure you include practice activities, phrases or texts that will have importance for your students.

This may mean making reference to nearby places, famous people as examples, including festivals and events which your students recognise, and so on. This doesn’t mean you can never refer to or use examples from other places but do make sure the students have an understanding of the content before you begin.

When students can see that an example has relevance and importance to them, they will inevitably sit up and take notice.

2 – Add a competitive edge

The vast majority of students enjoy a little bit of competition. To add a bit of excitement to a grammar focussed class, include a points-based system. (Providing prizes is optional!)

Students can work in pairs or trios and points are added up on the scoreboard (whiteboard!) throughout the class. So that students don’t get disheartened if they are making errors, you can include the odd random ‘points opportunity’ where students must complete a mini-challenge such as naming 10 things you wear or 10 food items and so on. This also adds a little chaotic fun!

This kind of class which is based around a series of challenges or mini-competitions can easily follow grammar-based activities from a coursebook.

Use a timer to add a bit of extra fun. If you have more planning time available, you can, of course, design your own Power Point quiz or paper-based resources.

3 – Let your students be the teachers

As a way of reviewing grammar points after you have taught and practised with the class, why not hand over the responsibility of teaching to the students themselves!

Divide your students into small groups and have them prepare a grammar activity or two with explanations of the grammar point on a given area.

They should then ‘teach’ this to the rest of the class and check the answers to their self-created activity with the group too.

This can be a quick or much more dawn out task based on the group’s size, ability and time constraints.

This also allows you as the teacher to assign the grammar areas based on the students strengths and weaknesses as well as gain a better understanding of to what extent they have greased the material.

4 – Step away from the textbook now and then

Course books are an excellent resource and nowadays include all sorts of additional activities, audio, media links and so on. They are essential for providing a step by step approach that builds on previous knowledge and ensure all content is provided for courses such as Cambridge Exams where many students are aiming to complete a certification.

Of course, we use course books in our classes, and we rely on them to some extent. This is inevitable.

However, if all a class does for an entire academic year is work through a book, things become dry and tedious fairly swiftly.

We would suggest that sometimes alternatives are necessary, particularly where grammar practice is concerned. Creating your own resources, going in a different direction with some new topics or themes, using newspaper or blog articles, throwing in a podcast now and then and so on and so forth will have a really positive impact on your classes.

Using these types of resources alongside the coursebook shows initiative and will avoid students becoming bored of the same format throughout the year.

5 – Include games, songs or videos

This suggestion is such an easy one to try out. With the internet at your fingertips, there is no end to ideas for games, songs and videos for all English levels.

In terms of grammar, for example: “Jeopardy”, “Who wants to be a millionaire?” –  And a traditional board game format where you throw a dice and move around the board all lend themselves well to grammar points. Make your own or find them online.

Songs offer a wealth of grammar points and help students to practice their listening skills too. Create your own lyrics completion worksheets or have students listen to and read the lyrics of a song while looking out for and highlighting specific grammar areas.

Video is also readily available of course. Grammar specific activities could involve rewriting the dialogue with a specific focus, answering comprehension questions based on a video clip or continuing the story with – “what happens next?” type of task.

“Grammar is the breathing power for the life of language.”
– Munia Khan

Conclusion: We hope that, through this article, we have demonstrated a variety of ways in which grammar classes can be a bit different and offer a little more fun to your students. The main focus of any classroom is, of course, the learners so we should always be aware of their needs and plan and teach in response to their requirements. If we can do this, we will be well on our way to creating successful classrooms with happy and well-developed students.

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This article was originally published on January 3, 2020 and was last updated on June 29, 2020.

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