Sound familiar? Here are my tips for helping all children get to grips with grammar.

OK – so there are 70 different grammar terms in the National Curriculum up for grabs for a year 6 child to learn and use effectively in their writing and speaking. What’s not to love? It couldn’t be easier – just learn by rote what each term means and use it effectively in your writing!

Grammar isn’t just learning terminology and then working out how to use it. As David Crystal says in his article, being taught how to do something doesn’t mean that you instantly have the skills to be good at it.

For some children, grammar terms such as fronted adverbial, passive voice, gerund and intransitive verb will be learned and used confidently in their writing (often they will be using this type of language structure naturally in their speech, have been exposed to rich vocabulary and are keen readers.) For many pupils, the terms will be problematic to remember, and they will have to purposely revisit and amend their writing to include them.

For some it is not possible to manipulate their vocabulary to extend a sentence such as:

The cat sat on the mat.


Stretched out on the sumptuous shag pile, the ancient tabby feline purred contentedly.

Or is it? While learning the lingo might prove too challenging (and let’s be honest we all struggle with remembering the meaning of some of the terminology), all children, with support, can have fun manipulating vocabulary in order to create interesting, extended sentences.

Children love a good story and just like Poppy in David Crystal’s article, children can hear the language that makes an engaging and exciting story when they read or are read to – it’s just more difficult to try and recreate it.

How can we help?

  • Don’t get too hung up on the terminology and focus more on what makes things sound better
  • Focus on key elements of the sentence: nouns, verbs and adjectives
  • Shared reading with lots of discussion about the stylistic effect; ‘What made that sentence scary?’ ‘Why was that funny/sad?’
  • Peer support – let another child help. Used paired talk where children tell each other their ideas
  • Model good speech rather than, for example, correcting tenses
  • Prompt with questions ‘What colour, shape, size when did this happen?’
  • Use a Dictaphone to record the sentence to act as a prompt for the child
  • Writing frames can be extremely useful for ‘showing’ a child where they can change their sentences
  • Specific feedback – ‘I really like this sentence, what else could be added here to tell us how the girl was feeling?’
  • Write their sentence and highlight the word that makes it special
  • Use colour coding to highlight different grammatical parts of the sentence. ‘Language Link’ and ‘Language Through Colour’ have lots of resources for this
  • Model a sentence before and after and ask ‘Which sentence sounded best and why?
  • Have a lucky dip bag of prompts to explore the senses, e.g. colours (scraps of different coloured fabric), emotions cards, textured objects (smooth, rough, shiny etc)

Most of all allow plenty of time to enable the child to sequence and voice their thoughts without being rushed and praise every effort and success.

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