Practicing Grammar With a Magic Grandfather Clock
Snack: To celebrate learning about "grammar," let's have some "graham"
crackers - notice the spelling differences. And to mark our study of "syntax,"
let's put some "cinnamon" on those graham crackers. These are homophones -
syllables that sound the same, but are spelled differently: the "gram" in
"grammar" sounds the same as "graham" cracker, but they aren't spelled the
same. And the "syn" in "syntax" sounds like the "cin" in "cinnamon," but again,
the spellings are very different. One thing is always the same, though, and
that's the drink you can have with your snack: milk. It tastes good every time!
Photocopy the grandfather clock illustration
Colored pencils | Lined paper and pencil or pen
"Grammar" sounds like the name for
your grandmother or grandfather. But it's not!
Grammar is the set of language rules and guidelines that we use in
order to speak and write correctly. If you speak and write with good grammar,
people will think that you are smart, educated and capable. If not . . . they
Here are the three keys for grammar in both speaking and writing:
- tense (that's the "when"
-- whether the action was in the past, present or future)
I called the dog. (you can tell by the -ed
in "called" that this was in the past, so you use past tense)
- person (that's the "who"
- "I" if it's in the first person, "you" if it's in the second person, and
"he/she/they" if it's in the third person)
"I" called (so it's in the first person)
- syntax (the rules that
bring it all together)
"I" (subject) "called" (verb) the dog
Ready to practice good grammar?
First, color the grandfather clock with colored pencils any way
that you'd like. Then, on a separate sheet of paper, write a short story about
a magic grandfather clock. Use this grammar: past tense, and third person.
You can invent one or more characters to tell the story, or let
the grandfather clock tell the story.
Make sure that every sentence is written in the past tense, and
that you stay in the "third person" - no "I's" or "you's."
When you are finished, trade stories with another student. Give
each other one praise, and one bit of constructive criticism (something he or
she could do better next time).
This illustration is by Lisa Worrall:
More background on grammar:
Linguistics (pronounced lin-GWIST-icks) is the study of language.
Experts from that field say human babies are pre-programmed for putting words
in order correctly when we speak and write.
As we grow and listen to the speech around us, we gradually put
the rules of grammar into action in our own speech. Part of it happens just
from everyday life, talking and listening and thinking. But part of it happens
by paying attention in school, and learning the rules of grammar and syntax so
that we can write well.
It doesn't happen overnight. We smile when we hear a little child
say, "I comed home." It takes a while to learn the tense; the child will soon learn to say, "I came home."
In the same way, a toddler may talk about "three mouses," because
she hasn't yet learned that exception to the rule about plurals. You don't just add an -s to make "one mouse" plural; you
change the whole word: "three mice." There are several plurals that are
exceptions to the rule, and by everyday life and paying attention in school,
you gradually master them all.
Language experts say that the better quality of the
language we hear when we are growing up - better "comprehensible input" -- the
better we will be at speaking and writing ourselves. That figures!
just another reason to spend time listening to your elders and playing board
games with Grandma and Grandpa. They're helping you just by talking with you,
whether you know it or not!