Monday, August 22, 2011

How to Make Grammar, Punctuation, & Spelling Practice More Interesting?

When I was teaching 4th grade I used the Daily Oral Language sentences for grammar, punctuation, and spelling practice. We weren't provided the DOL resources by the district but I was able to get my hands on a teachers manual for grade 4 with enough sentences for the year. I created a worksheet for each week that had 9-10 sentences per sheet. Each day for bellwork the student would get out their sheet and correct 2 sentences that would also be displayed on the overhead or board. As part of our morning routine we'd go over the 2 sentences together and discuss why the corrections to grammar, punctuation, and/or spelling were needed. On Friday the students were assessed by being given the same 10 sentence sheet again and they would correct them independently and be graded on their work.

I loved that this method did not take a ton of teaching time. It worked into our morning routine very fluidly. I also really liked the results I got in the improvement of the students' everyday writing. Clearly the short morning lessons paid off and the weekly assessment scores were generally high for the whole class. The skills translated well to the standardized testing that the students would take during the year too.

Even though I felt this method was very effective I have to admit it is not the most exciting way to teach/learn grammar, punctuation, and spelling! A year ago I had an idea on a way to modify the DOL method to make it more interesting to students. Kids today, especially at the middle/high school level, seem to have cell phones. Kids tend to use texting much more than talking on the cell phone. We all know that teens use "text speak" to communicate their ideas in the minimum of characters used. This wreaks havoc on conventional grammar, spelling, and punctuation! It is sometimes  painful to read! Sadly teens are allowing this "text speak" to sneak into their everyday writing in the classroom. Students need to learn proper writing conventions for application to the real working world so I decided to combine my DOL type practice with "text speak". This way students get to do the practice in a way that seems more interesting and practical to them and at the same time they are learning that even though "text speak" has its place in casual texting conversations, conventional writing rules need to be applied in the school/work world situations. It was the best of both worlds!

This idea became "Alien Text Talk" that I created for grades 5-12.

The set up is the same that I used for DOL. I have a weekly sheet with 10 sentences that need to be corrected using the proper writing conventions. Each morning as bellwork the student will correct 2 sentences on their own and then as a class we go over them as part of the morning routine. They are assessed at the end of the week.

There are 36 weeks worth of sentences to get you through a traditional school year.

Here is an example from Week 19:


As you can see it does look like some kind of Alien language! To tweens and teens it is their talk and a challenge to translate into proper English. It is almost like a puzzle to them to use the familiar text speak to get it back to regular English. It also reinforces the idea that their "text speak" is a valid form of communication and really should be acceptable among friends and casual acquaintances via texting and email but it is not acceptable for regular writing in school or most importantly in the working world. This clarifies the difference between the two.

If you are looking for a practical, more interesting way to give your 5-12th grade students some grammar, punctuation, and spelling practice check out Alien Text Talk. You can buy it by the quarter, by the semester, or for an entire year! Check it out!
Find Alien Text Talk at:

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this nice post. When you are planning to write some thing in English Language, it is very important to follow the Grammar and Punctuation tips to express your idea concisely.

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