NACE associates Christine Chen and Lindsay Pickton are experienced primary English advisors, with a specialisation in supporting more able learners. In this blog post, they explain how grammar games can help to foster creativity, engagement with the composition process, and a lasting love of language.
If you’re not already using grammar games in your classroom, here are five reasons to start now…

1. They set a high bar for all learners

The great thing about grammar games is that they enable a “low threshold, high ceiling” approach to learning, enabling all learners to experience the possibilities of language manipulation. While some games offer potential forms of differentiation, the key – as with any learning – is having high expectations of all.

2. They’re fun!

There’s a common misconception that grammar is intrinsically boring and dry. Grammar games help to break this down, providing opportunities for teachers and learners alike to have fun with grammar, through activities including dice games, physical manipulation of sentence structures and simple drama strategies.

3. They put grammar in context

Grammar teaching and learning is commonly approached through isolated exercises, which may help some children with test preparation, but do little to support composition. Grammar games can be used to explore grammar in the wider context of language usage, making it more likely that learners will apply new learning and continue to experiment.

4. They encourage risk-taking

Collaborative grammar play transforms what could be a purely internal process into an enjoyable shared learning experience. When children experiment with application in writing following these collaborative games, they are more likely to take risks and to feel in control, in a joyful way.

5. They nurture a love of language

Playing with language fosters a love of it. This is important for all learners, including more able writers and communicators. Even if they don’t know the terminology, these learners are able to adapt sentence structures and vocabulary choices to achieve a desired impact on their readership. Grammar games further encourage them to take pleasure in exploring and developing their skills as young writers.

One to try: “Every word counts”

This is a dice game for manipulating meaning and exploring nuance through vocabulary choices. It’s one of the most popular and adaptable games we’ve invented; as children play, they experience tangibly the descriptive power of every word in a sentence. 
Create a six-word sentence, in which no word class is repeated, and list the word classes in order.

e.g. They played in their tiny garden.
  1. Pronoun
  2. Verb
  3. Preposition
  4. Determiner
  5. Adjective
  6. Noun
Throw a dice. With each throw, children must change the corresponding word in the sentence, and discuss (as a group or whole class) what has changed about the scene or story.
e.g. Throw a 4 – change the determiner:
They played in their tiny garden.
They played in her tiny garden.
They played in the tiny garden.
They played in this tiny garden.
Learners discuss how changes made affect the meaning. With each change, how does the word choice affect the story?

Find out more…

For examples of grammar games to try in your own classroom, join Christine Chen’s workshop at NACE’s English for the More Able conference on 15 March 2018. Christine will be joined by school leaders, researchers and education advisors from across the country for a day dedicated to exploring the latest strategies and resources to support more able learners in primary English.
View the full conference programme.
Thursday, January 18, 2018