How To Make Teaching Grammar Fun Again

By Altiné Moumouni
English grammar can be challenging for ESL learners, so it’s essential to find ways to make it fun and easy for your students to digest

Trying to teach English without grammar is like teaching maths without numbers. English grammar can be challenging for ESL learners; that is why it is essential to find ways to make it fun and easy for your students to digest.  

Here are a few tips to make learning and teaching grammar fun and less painful for you and your students. 

1 Build grammar practice into fun activities

Focus on activities that help your students review subject/verb agreement, adjectives, and adverbs.

For example, you can choose fun activities where you can write parts of speech, articles, determiners, punctuation marks on big cardboard cards and ask your students to put them together and form a complete sentence. 

You can also give your students a sentence and ask them to provide the correct order of the words. Each student should explain why they place each word in their chosen positions. I would suggest you start with simple sentences and provide grammar instruction. 

You can make teaching English grammar really entertaining for ESL students when you categorize all the different parts of speech, determiners, dependent clauses, pronouns, prepositions, and punctuation marks. 

2 Spend no more than 10% of your class time teaching grammar

The truth is that if you spend too much time teaching (explaining the rules of English grammar), most students will get bored and lose interest. Instead, focus more on teaching other skills, including writing, conversation, and reading.  

Typically, when students participate in these activities, they will also indirectly learn English grammar as a bonus. 

These oral and mental activities support the learning process, and they almost always captivate EFL learners more than straight-up rules of grammar. 

3 Use reading to make teaching grammar fun 

Reading is an essential part of learning English for an ESL student. When students see, hear, and read a new grammar rule, most of them will internalize it and start to use it.

Start by giving your students a short paragraph to read. Then ask your students to explain specific passages in the text and then show your students how grammar influences the meaning.

Let’s say you are teaching modals, and students might wonder why the author used “shall” instead of “will” or “may.” Instead of memorizing grammar rules, your students will learn the rules by practicing and noticing the nuances. 

In addition, it will be an excellent opportunity to explain modals to your students and how they can change the meaning of a sentence. 

In the end, your students will be happy, and you will feel satisfied to spark conversation during grammar class. 

4 Most ESL students learn grammar by reading and listening

Make your students read as much as possible in class and outside class. After they finish reading, ask them to narrate the whole story in their own words in English. 

Correct the small grammar mistakes if required. You will notice that they will gradually improve their grammar even without teaching and memorizing the dreaded grammar rules. 

Consistent reading can improve students’ grammar skills.

Examples of ways to make teaching grammar fun

If you are looking for ways to make teaching grammar pleasant, I would suggest you teach grammar as follows: 

  • Start by showing your students a set of sentences with the grammar rules you want to focus on. 
  • Ask your students to figure the rule out by themselves first. 
  • Try to give them as much time and clues as they need. 
  • After they figure out the rules, ask them to write more sentences that follow these rules.
  • Correct their sentences and show similar sentences that follow the same rule (include some sentences that do not follow the rule and ask your students to figure out why those sentences are an exception to the rule)
  • And then ask your students to make more sentences that follow and do not follow the rule. 

How does it work? 

Let’s use an illustration; let’s say I want to teach how to use the word “the.” I will start by giving my students the following sentences:

  • The dog is sleeping in the playground.
  • I went to the hospital.
  • She takes the pen.

First, I will ask my student to figure out when to use “the” correctly and then ask for more examples of sentences. 

After they find out the reasons, I will ask them to provide more examples of sentences that suit the rule. I will ask them to discuss why they can use “the” in some sentences and not others.

This way of teaching grammar always works because it uses a constructivist learning method. My students are not just passively listening to a lecture, but they have to also participate, think, and figure out grammar rules actively.

They also remember any rule for a much longer time since they had to figure it out by themselves. 

Moreover, by asking your students to make more sentences, you turn grammar into ‘usage,’ which will help make teaching and learning grammar fun and create pleasant and memorable learning experiences for your students. 

However, the only drawback of this kind of strategy is that it will take longer. 

Written by Altiné Moumouni for Teflnet March 2022
Altiné is from Toronto, Canada, and currently teaches mathematics at a high school in Guangzhou, China. He has a master's degree in International Economics and Finance from Ryerson University in Canada and is passionate about helping people worldwide through his blogs. He writes about TEFL Teaching and Health and Fitness. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, running, traveling, and anything that allows him to experience the beauty of nature. You can find him at altinify.com.
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