You know those grammar errors that students make in second grade … and third grade … and are still making in high school? Here are 10 lesson ideas that just might make the grammar rules stick, by WeAreTeachers blogger Erin Bittman. This is the fifth post in the Teaching Young Writers blog series sponsored by Zaner-Bloser.
COMMON Grammar MISTAKE #1: There, Their and They’re
LESSON: “You Be the Judge”
There is a place. Their shows possession. They’re is short for they are. How can you reinforce the spelling of these three homonyms? Have students be the judge! Give small groups of students a set of sticky notes with sentences using there, their and they’re. Write some sentences correctly and others incorrectly. Then, have students sort the sentences. Visit Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational for the “You Be the Judge” printable to go along with this activity. Students pretend they are in a courtroom and decide the verdict for each sentence.
COMMON Grammar MISTAKE #2: You’re and Your
LESSON: YOUR Surgery
Students always seem to forget to add an e and insert an apostrophe when needed! With this grammar no-no, remind students to reread their sentences and see if they are using your as a shortened version of you are. If so, they need the e and apostrophe! To help reinforce these words, play YOUR Surgery! This is just like Contraction Surgery except students are focusing on your and you are. Write sentences that all use the word your on large sentence strips. The sentences should use the word your both correctly and incorrectly. The students’ job is to correct the sentences that are wrong. Put out a box of Band-Aids and a fat Crayola marker. If they think that your is incorrect in the sentence, they add a Band-Aid in between the u and r. Then, they use their markers to insert an e after the r.
COMMON Grammar MISTAKE #3: Then and Than
LESSON: Then-Than Flip
To help students understand when to use then vs. than, have them play Then-Than Flip! Each student has a Popsicle stick with two different-colored squares attached on each side for easy flipping. One side says then, the other side says than. Read (or write) out sentences, leaving a blank where the students should insert the word. For example, I like grapes better ____ bananas. The students hold up their mini-sign showing the correct word. The teacher can scan the room and assess each student’s knowledge, noting who gets it and who needs more work.
COMMON Grammar MISTAKE #4: Lie and Lay
LESSON: Lie-Lay Action!
Call students over to work with a small group. Have each student choose one object (book, pencil, anything in the classroom). Next, make up a sentence for one student at a time to act out, leaving a blank where lay or lie should be inserted. For example, call someone up from the group. He stands up. The teacher says, “Max, _____ your pencil on the table.” Max would then respond, “Max, lay your pencil on the table,” and he would act it out using his pencil. Next, the teacher would call someone else up. He or she might say, “Chloe, please _____ down on the floor.” Chloe would then say, “Chloe, please lie down on the floor,” and she would act it out. The teacher mixes up sentences that use the words lay and lie (present tense) to see which students need extra help.
COMMON Grammar MISTAKE #5: Who and Whom
LESSON: Fishing for Who and Whom
Cut out a variety of paper fish from construction paper. The teacher writes sentences on them, leaving a blank where who or whom should go. For example, “To _____ it may concern” or “_____ went to the store?” Next, attach a magnet to the fish on the same side as the word. You can buy magnet strip rolls at office-supply stores. Find a stick outside, attach a long piece of string and add a magnet to the end of the string. The students use the stick fishing pole to catch sentences. Each time they catch a sentence, they put it in their “who” or “whom” pile. After all of the fish are caught, they check with the teacher to see if they were correct on all of the sentences they caught.
COMMON Grammar MISTAKE #6: Two, To and Too
LESSON: Two-To-Too Slide
To assess students’ understanding of the three words to, two and too, create a clothespin slide game. Cut a sheet of construction paper in half. Next, divide the strip into three columns. In each column, write two, to and too. Call students over to work in small groups. Each student gets a strip of paper with the three words written in the columns, as well as a clothespin. The clothespin is attached to the bottom of the strip. The teacher reads a sentence. Then, the students slide their clothespin so it is in the column that contains the right word. When they think they are correct, they show the teacher.
COMMON Grammar MISTAKE #7: Affect and Effect
LESSON: Affect/Effect Art
Knowing when to use affect and effect can be a difficult concept for students to grasp. To help deepen their understanding, have them create Affect/Effect Art. Give the students a sheet of white construction paper. Next, instruct them to draw a line down the center of the sheet. They write affect on the left side and effect on the right side. Explain to students that affect is a verb and effect is a noun. Their challenge is to come up with an example of affect, draw it and then create its effect. For example, the affect sentence could be: “The loud music affected my concentration.” A student could draw a person unable to do his or her homework and holding his or her ears. On the effect side, the student could draw an F on a paper. Their effect would be: “The loud music had a negative effect on my homework.” Students write their sentences under their drawings for affect and effect.
COMMON Grammar MISTAKE #8: I and Me
LESSON: Drop “_____ and”
The easiest way for students to know when they should use I versus me in their sentences is to drop the “_____ and.” For example, You and I went to the store versus You and me went to the store. Which sounds correct? I went to the store or Me went to the store? Another example is with a name: The dog followed Mason and I or The dog followed Mason and me. Drop “Mason and,” and which sounds right? The dog followed me. To turn this into an educational activity, designate two corners of the classroom, one for I and one for me. Read a sentence using a blank where I or me should be inserted. Students go to the corner with the correct word (I or me). You could also play this on the playground so that students could run to the correct word. Write the words I and me in huge letters on the blacktop. Split your class into two teams. Two students come up at a time. After you read a sentence with the missing word (I or me), the students run to the I or me. The students who stand on the correct word get a point for their team.
COMMON Grammar MISTAKE #9: It’s and Its
LESSON: Pipe Cleaner Apostrophes!
Print out the word its in large, bold type on paper. Next, give each student half of a pipe cleaner. The students bend their pipe cleaner to create an apostrophe. Working with small groups, read a sentence that uses the word its and it’s. For example: It’s interesting that a cat can retract its claws.The students place their apostrophe in between the t and s if they think the word in the sentence is a contraction. If they think it doesn’t, they leave the word as it is. Then, the teacher can assess which students understand the difference between the two words.
COMMON Grammar MISTAKE #10: Principal and Principle
To help students distinguish the difference between principal and principle, remind them that only one can be your pal! When students are writing to or about a principal (head of a school) in their piece of writing, they remember the word pal. A principle (a rule, basic truth or theory) would not be your pal.
Looking for more? We have nine free Strategies for Writers lesson plans complete with teacher and student pages!