A Sentence a Day Teaches Grammar the Fun Way

Welcome to everyone joining me as part of the 2015 Virtual Curriculum Fair hosted by my friend Susan at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds. This week, Chareen from Every Bed of Roses is co-hosting. Each week of the Virtual Curriculum Fair will have a different subject area as a theme, and the bloggers are free to interpret that as widely as they like. This week's theme is "Playing with Words: The Language Arts." In this week, bloggers will cover topics like spelling, grammar, speech, writing, reading, phonics, etc., but also could include foreign language too, so you are encouraged to hop along to all the participants and see what each of us have chosen to write about. As for me, I wanted to share our favorite way to do grammar.
Through the years, we've tried several different curriculums for teaching grammar.  Each had their merits, but what I kept finding was that while my kids knew the information within the isolated moment of the grammar lesson, their ability to apply it across the board every time the pen hit the page was severely lacking.  So one day, as I was trolling the internet for yet another miracle curriculum that would finally cement all the laws of English grammar, I hit upon grammatical gold.

The Sentence a Day.

It was a teacher's blog that I gleaned the idea from, I believe.  If I had known how life changing it would be, I definitely would have bookmarked it to give her credit even now.  But the idea is simple, and works whether you teach in a classroom of 30 or one.  You write a sentence on the board that has mistakes in it, and challenge your student(s) to correct it.  Here's an example:

Concerned about the fate of birds while the dragon was still lose.  The Queen had all the birds in the Kingdom except magpies locked up in cages she didn't like magpies.

In my house, this is how we begin our day.  It's a great encouragement to the kids to get up in a timely way, because the sentence is waiting, and the winner gets a prize (usually a mini candy bar). Tarry, and someone might beat you to the punch.  "Also rans" get a smaller reward- a roll of smarties or tootsie roll, etc.- since I have a struggling learner who is 4 or more years younger than her teenaged siblings and needs some encouragement to participate despite the fact that she rarely wins (although she won once when she got downstairs eons before they roused themselves).

Since stumbling onto the sentence a day idea, my kids have learned a ton about grammar, spelling, and punctuation without even realizing it.  And because they do it in a competitive atmosphere, they are eager participants, because they want to WIN.  If you aren't big into the "candy as a reward" idea, I've also done charts with stickers to track the winner each day, and the person who wins the most in "x" amount of time gets something special.  We've done dollar store items like glow sticks or dollar sundaes from McDonalds.  But if you have a child who wins several times in a row right off the bat, it can discourage the others from trying, which is why I went to a daily reward.

If you are worried that you aren't grammatically strong yourself, you can use a book for your sentences.  It will not only give you the incorrect sentence and the correct version, but tell you why each thing was wrong.  We use this one.

I'm pretty strong grammatically, but I knew if it was left up to me to just randomly generate "bad" sentences every day, it either a) wouldn't happen or b) wouldn't contain the varied mistakes that the book has accounted for-slang, common misspellings, punctuation, capitalization, run-ons, phrases, when to spell out numbers, and even the proper use of etc.  And if I feel like a sentence is a little "light" challenge-wise, I can always add a few problems to it, which I have been known to do for some of the shorter sentences.

The correction for the above sentence is as follows:
Concerned about the fate of birds while the dragon was still lose, the queen had all the birds in the kingdom except magpies locked up in cages.  She didn't like magpies.

I make my kids underline the things they correct in the sentences so they are easy for me to spot.  Then I will tell them "yes" or "no" to each underlined thing, and they keep working at it until they get it correct.  Sometimes that happens on the first try, but on more complicated sentences, frequently one thing will elude them over and over again.  Once 3 of the 4 have figured it out, or a reasonable amount of time has passed, I will go over the sentence out loud with them all to explain what the corrections were and WHY, so that I make sure they hear the rules behind each correction.  Again, the reasons for each correction are laid out in the book if you are unsure.

The Sentence a Day has been one of the best things we have ever done in our homeschool, and my kids clamor to do it everyday.  It teaches grammar the fun way, and I see the dividends pay out each time a new sentence brings up a problem that an older sentence addressed, and they are quick to fix it.  It also teaches them to proofread their own writing to make them strong communicators.  It's applications go far beyond daily grammar lessons and well into skills that will serve them for life.
See what other bloggers who are part of this year's Virtual Curriculum Fair had to say about Playing with Words: Language Arts by following the links below beginning on noon on Monday, January 5th.


Joelle A. said…
Love the idea. Will be putting that book on my Amazon wish list. Thanks for sharing.
This sounds fun.
I work on grammar concepts as part of our Circle Time but this would add some panache!
I LOVE this idea! My oldest doesn't like "lessons," and this sounds perfect for him. I'm adding this book to my wishlist too!
Jasmine said…
This is great! I will definitely add this once the kids start reading!

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