Teaching the parts of speech is an important undertaking. Unfortunately, it’s often also a dreadfully boring one as well.
Whether you are a homeschooling parent, a tutor, a teacher, or you are a student trying to prepare for exams, it’s important to find a way to make learning about the parts of speech more interesting so the information becomes more personal and meaningful.
Here are some fairly simple ways to liven up your parts-of-speech explorations, who would likely benefit most from the specific kind of activities and strategies, and why each activity or strategy works.
Advertisers and marketing firms know that color is much more attractive to the human brain than black and white print. Adding color to anything can make the information more memorable.
In addition, studies show that the more of your senses involved in learning something, the more likely the information is to “stick.” So, for example, reading that the word “cat” is a noun may work for some clever kiddos, but reading it (seeing), saying it (using their voice and hearing themselves do so), and some sort of movement (which involves touch) will have the greatest impact.
Something as simple as highlighting all the nouns on a page blue while whispering the words to themselves, or saying the words aloud in a group can help solidify the understanding that words like “cat”, “neuron”, or “St. Paul, MN” are all nouns can help when done routinely.
Younger children are exceptionally influenced by both color and movement. Although the fine motor skills like highlighting or coloring parts of speech with crayons or colored pencils may not make as much difference for them, things like taking the word “cat” written on an index card and putting it on a blue mat would definitely fill that need.
This is because the mat and card activity does not require them to work on two skills at once – fine motor and language skills. Young children are still working to control and build their fine motor skills, so sometimes asking them to write, draw, or color something divides their focus. It’s sometimes better to be sure you aren’t giving them too many things to learn and attend to at once.
Using color to illustrate and highlight parts of speech is pretty common, but try to be creative in your approaches and follow the interest of the learners. It’s versatile and can help any student of any age with the exception of those who are affected by color blindness or other vision impairment issues.
One other thing to note here – drawing, mind-mapping, and any sort of formal or informal notetaking can also improve memory and understanding of any content in any subject. Encourage students/homeschooling students to use those methods anytime you can to further promote memory and understanding.
The number one way to commit anything to memory is to compare and contrast the new information with information already known. This applies to parts of speech, as well!
Any activity that requires sorting, classifying, or contrasting words or ideas as belonging together or in distinctly different groups can be useful.
There are so many appealing, novel ways to do this. Posters with lists of categorized words found by your homeschooler or students can be helpful. A variety of games can be used, or try having them literally “build” sentences with connectable blocks with each part of speech represented on its own colored block.
One tool many educators and parents are resistant to use is sentence diagramming. When offered too early to some students, it can be overwhelming;?however, as they mature, diagrams can be incredibly useful. They are particularly helpful for students who excel in math but struggle with language concepts because it creates a “map”, or a formula of sorts, from language.
Another excellent tool is a parts-of-speech journal. Staple together eight to sixteen pieces of light-colored construction or manilla paper. Label each of the eight sections with the name of a part of speech. As students explore sentences, have them record words in the appropriate area of their journals.
The journaling tool is a great one for students in middle and upper elementary grades because it can grow with them and become sort of a “personal dictionary”. It aids in spelling by providing a deeper language understanding.
Mary Poppins really had the right idea – making learning a game is easily like taking medicine with a spoonful of sugar! Learning through games is ideal because it gives those learning the perfect amount of risk and reward.
Most teachers and many homeschooling families know about fun apps like Kahoot that can gamify learning for them, but there are lots of ways to use hands-on, in-person tools for this purpose as well.
Any board or card game can be adapted to working with the parts of speech, for example. If you used the game Candy Land, you could put the game board in a picture frame, write words over each square using dry erase markers, and create cards that say “move one verb”, or “move back two adjectives”. Of course, you have to keep the “special” cards because Candy Land must retain its Candy Cane Forest and Gumdrop Mountain.
Uno or a plain deck of cards missing a few can be altered to represent parts of speech using different words. All the nouns, again, could be blue, or diamonds. Verbs could be red, adjectives could be green or spades.
Another fun classifying and sorting game that kids of all ages love is one we call “trashketball”. Save any used paper with some clean spots to write on in a recycling bin. When it’s time to review, have students write words on each sheet. Label “trashcans” (small baskets, empty crates, or buckets) with the parts of speech you are working on.
Have students read the word, crumple the paper into a ball, and “shoot” for the correct basket. Each team who makes it into the correct “can” or “basket” (rebounds count) gets a point. Or, for cooperative play, keep playing until you collectively reach a certain point count.
There is no limit to the many ways to make learning, in general, more of a game.
And don’t limit the fun to revamping old games to play in new ways. Ask your child or your students to create games of their own. Award a prize for most difficult, most cooperative, best illustrations, and overall best game. Make the game creation a game.
The more students are invested in the tools, the more they will be committed to using them as they learn. Personalization often makes things a lot more attractive to students and children.
There are some games made specifically for parts of speech review. Here are a few. They may be cost-effective for teachers and tutors, but for the homeschooling community, many of these will be less so due to the fact that you may only use them three or four times with each child.
The exception to this would be for those homeschooling families involved in a co-op where the parent is leading an English group.
One other note: we’ve added links to places the games can be purchased for purposes of clarity, but we aren’t getting any pay to do so, and we aren’t mentioning these particular games because we are paid to. These are just games we like and think may help.
Here’s what we found:
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are good grammar and syntax skills! Studies show that the most beneficial way to learn some skills is to spend a little time on them each day. Learning to name and appropriately use the parts of speech fall within that category.
Make the usage and review of the parts of speech a daily routine. It doesn’t have to take long or be a full-length lesson each day. Rather, use what you’re already teaching as your base for review.
Whether you are using a science text, social studies worksheet, math story problem, or working on reading for comprehension, use one or two sentences from any passage and “code” or color it, diagram it, or sort the words out into a parts-of-speech journal either together or independently.
If you are teaching in a classroom or working with more than one student in a tutoring or homeschooling setting, you can assign one sentence to each child or a group of children and have them work to “teach” the rest of the class by leading them through their thought process.
The key is to make interactions consistent. You may even do a different routine for each day of the week. Another idea is to focus on one part of speech every day for eight days, then for the remaining two days of a two week cycle, review all eight parts simultaneously (as you would when diagraming or making class charts, etc…).
One other suggestion: have students take sentences from their own writing to diagram and explore at least once a week, if not more. They will be most connected to their own words rather than the words of others, and seeing their own sentences separated by parts of speech will fast-track them to understanding the importance of each part to the whole.
One big mistake parents and teachers often make is attempting to teach grammar and punctuation in isolation. If you teach it with the student’s own writing, it greatly enhances the impact and probability that the lesson will be internalized.
There are so many options for making even the drabbest of subjects more enjoyable. It’s time to make learning fun!