Most people I know, besides a select few like me, think that grammar is stupid and boring to learn. Especially teens and pre-teens. This can certainly be a super dry and boring subject. However, I have found a way to make even teenage boys enjoy it. Ok – maybe not ENJOY it but don’t complain about it.
I found, a few years ago, a fantastic series of grammar books called Caught Yas by Jane Bell Kiester. I used them with many students with great success, but last year I used the “Chortling Bard” with my teenage sons and we are going through her “A Midsummer’s Nightmare”, which introduces this Shakespeare play with a mix of old and modern English. They balked a little at first, but then they got into it, and it became a habit. This year my oldest son, who is 16, is dual-enrolled at a local college and taking his English there. However, he doesn’t want to stop doing this grammar program.
What did I do? How is this book a miracle worker? First, it is based on the concept that you work on a few sentences a day (1 sentence for elementary school and work up to about 3 in high school). This philosphy – of doing something small consistently – matches my own beliefs. I would rather see students do 15 minutes a day every day than 1 hour a week of instruction because I have seen how this method really works with not only children but also with adults. I have never had a student complain once they realized that it is not a lot of work each day.
Second, the sentences you are working with are filled with mistakes – no capital letters, no punctuation, mispelled words, mis-use of homonyms, etc. The students copy the sentences, but make the corrections as they re-write it. So instead of regeratating the information back after a boring lecture, only to be told they were wrong, now they are making the corrections. Each sentence also has at least one vocabulary word to learn for the day. I suggest using a separate notebook just for this topic. Each sentece is part of a ‘story’ that lasts the entire year – or a very good part of it. By the end of the first few weeks, the students all want to know what is happening next.
However, here’s the biggest factor in keeping the students interested – friendly competition. For my own children, I type out the ‘incorrect’ sentences from the book, although I think the newer books now come with a CD that has them so you can print them out. It is easier for them to copy and think about what is wrong. Then, THEY check each other’s work against the answer key and they have to explain why the mistake was a mistake. They are very competitive, and the person who had the most wrong has to clean up from lunch. If there is a tie, they clean up together. After a year, they haven’t tired of it and it is the one subject they make sure they get done every day – neither wants to clean up the dishes! Even if you don’t home school your children, these grammar lessons take less than 10 minutes (most days, less than 5) so you can easily add it into your education schedule.