If you want your learners to achieve mastery of certain grammatical skills, they need opportunities to practise and use new rules in context. Level-appropriate grammar games are an ideal way to do this, using fun, stress-free and motivational activities to encourage even the most hesitant of students to get involved and learn through doing.
Game-based learning isn’t new - the term ‘gamification’ is common in educational and learning settings, with research defining it as the use of game elements, such as reward, to motivate players to do something they wouldn’t otherwise find attractive. Let’s be honest – how many of our students are naturally drawn to the acquisition of grammar rules? Grammar is a part of the curriculum that could benefit most from methods which increase motivation, such as gamification.
While educational games are becoming increasingly digital and app-based, they don’t have to be. While learners can benefit from digital grammar curricula, the principles of grammar games can be applied to just a few props you already have around the classroom. There are numerous grammar games you can use across all levels and ages to get students actively involved in learning grammar, suitable for both the home and the classroom.
Let’s have a look at some of those games, with sample resources demonstrating how you might use them to meet your learners’ needs and learning objectives.
1. Sentence building flashcards
Flashcards are great for teaching students about sentence structure. Offer learners a variety of flashcards containing a mixture of verbs, subjects, capital letters, lower case words, punctuation and other sentence elements and get them building their own sentences.
There’s lots of scope for variety - the game can be based on speed (the winner is the first to find a sentence) or on sentence structure (the winner is the person to include the most elements in a sentence) depending on the learner’s level.
2. Grammar scavenger hunt
Who doesn’t love a scavenger hunt? Even the most reluctant of learners will enjoy this active game. Select the grammar topic you want to cover (nouns, for example), create and print a list of the specific things you want them to hunt for (singular nouns, plural, proper and so on) and ask students to search through books and check off the list as they find examples. This could be played by individuals or in teams, with or without teacher support.
3. Match the subject with the verb
This grammar game supports verb instruction. The fundamental rules of matching the person or thing doing an action (the subject) with the word that shows the action or state of being (verb) can be practised through ‘fill in the blanks’ or flashcard activities. Write out sentences and leave blanks for students to fill with the right word, Marcus ___ the ball (kick/kicks), or provide them with subject and verb flashcards that match for different tenses and let them play with the combinations, for example, we, I, was, were, am, are and so on.
4. Adjectives and adverbs mind maps
This game supports the instruction of adjectives and adverbs. Mind maps are adaptable and can be used to practise any grammar, but they’re particularly useful for adjectives and adverbs. Use the centre of the mind map to write what you want your students to explore - for example, what can adjectives tell us about buildings? - and surround it with shapes. These could be left blank for learners to fill in based on the central question, or could contain headings (size, colour, shape) prompting learners to add words (small, white, square).
5. Don't let your adverbs die
This game supports teaching adverbs. Get your students playing with adverbs to encourage them to use them in their own writing. Adverb charades is a fun game, where you create flashcards with verbs and flashcards with adverbs, put them in separate containers and get students to pick one of each and act out the verb adverb combination.
6. Keep it simple (simplify the sentence!)
This game helps to teach sentence structure. You can have lots of fun with this game, creating long, convoluted sentences and asking learners to rewrite them in a simpler form. For example, “The young female person carried out a regular dental hygiene ritual at the darkest period of each day,” could become, “The girl brushed her teeth every night.” You could place students in two teams – one creating overly long sentences and the other simplifying them.
7. Change the subjunctive
This game helps solidify understanding of complex verbs and tenses. The subjunctive verb form is used for suggested, desirable or imaginary situations, such as events someone anticipates, imagines or wants to happen. The subjunctive verb form is the base verb (be, play, find) and stays the same for all subjects, for example, “I recommend that she find somewhere else to go”.
To help learners practise, provide them with a list of sentence starters that are suggestions and include varied subjects, such as “it is advisable that they”, “he is determined that she”, “they request that I”, and a list of verbs to change to the subjunctive.
8. Count the clauses of a sentence
This is another game that supports sentence structure instruction. Provide learners with sentences containing varied amounts of clauses and ask them to count them. As students progress, this exercise can be developed into counting different types of clauses, for example, adverbial or noun clauses.
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9. Make a parallelism
This builds on learners’ understanding of sentence structure. Parallelism is the repetitive use of a particular grammatical form within a sentence. For example, “I like to dance, watch films and read books” has a parallel structure, whereas “I like to dance, films and books” does not have a parallel structure. Depending on the level of ability, you could provide learners with a mix of sentences and ask them to identify the parallelisms, or give them non-parallel sentence structures and ask them to turn them into parallelisms.
10. Replace the adjective
To get your learners practising their adjectives and adverbs, provide them with a list of adjectives (happy, brief, angry) and ask them to replace them with adverbs (happily, briefly, angrily). You can extend the challenge by requesting learners to write full sentences.
11. Fill in the blank
This is a highly versatile activity that can be used to practise most grammar structures. Write out sentences and leave gaps for learners to fill in. Depending on the learning level, you could just leave a blank space or offer options to help the learner make a choice, such as “I ___ on the playing field”(was/were).
For higher level learners, you could write out sentences with gaps and ask them to complete the sentence with two variations, aiming for the verb to change the meaning of the sentence entirely.
12. True or false?
This is great for quick fire questions to get learners thinking on their feet about grammar rules. Create flashcards or use a screen to state a grammar rule - for example, blue is an adjective - and get learners to vote on whether it’s true or false, such as by putting their hands up if it’s true.
For individual play, you could print off grammar rules with true/false options next to them and ask learners to circle the correct answer.
13. Grammar and punctuation bingo
Create bingo game sheets containing the grammar or punctuation you’re focusing on and hand them out to the players. The teacher or a student can be the ‘caller’ and randomly call out punctuation and grammar terms for learners to search for and mark off on their game sheets. Whoever marks off five in a row first, gets to shout out bingo and claim the reward.
To make this game more complex, the teacher could read sentences from a text instead of naming the grammar techniques, encouraging learners to identify the techniques themselves.
14. Spot the mistakes
This is another versatile game to be used to practise any grammar element, or several at the one time. Write some sentences with deliberate mistakes linked to the topic you are covering and ask learners to find and highlight the mistakes. To make it easier, you could tell them how many mistakes they need to find.
15. Simon says…
This game is good for practising sentence structure for instructions/imperative form. It is based on the traditional game, with one person leading by calling out commands. If the leader includes Simon says at the start of the command, the players follow the command. If the leader doesn’t include Simon says, the players stay still.
You can ask students to identify the parts of speech used in the commands; for example, the verb and noun in Simon says…shake a leg, or you can provide them with flashcards and they can take it in turns to use them to create commands as leader of the game.
Keeping grammar fun and rewarding
The key to getting everyone engaged in grammar games is to make them engaging - rather than grammar instruction being considered boring, learners find it fun and rewarding. Different age ranges will respond to different stimuli: younger children might like to move around more than teens, with research showing that play-based learning can be more effective than direct instruction for younger learners.
Introducing an element of competition is good for all ages. Creating leaderboards and offering prizes and rewards can be motivational, once the grammar games match the students’ level and prior knowledge – the prizes should be achievable. A great example is Bedrock's half-termly prize draw!
Similarly, the length of time spent playing grammar games should reflect student age, ability and knowledge to keep it fun and productive for everyone.
However, if you’re looking for a time-saving solution that incorporates activities, videos, games and critical tasks into one online curriculum, perfect for learners of primary and secondary age, look no further than Bedrock's grammar curriculum.