At the end of nearly every school year, a few parents will ask me for recommendations for websites or apps to help their children review grammar over the summer. Parents have become enchanted with Khan Academy and want something just like it to give their kids an easy leg up on grammar before high school or to help them review before college. But grammar is a messy business — it’s difficult even to find English teachers who agree on some of its minutiae. I discovered that Khan Academy does have a grammar site called Core and Quirks of English Grammar in development (you can follow its progress on Facebook), but I worry that the workings of the English language may not fit so neatly into the standard format of a Khan Academy video.
Still, like many schools, we give a heavy dose of grammar in the seventh grade. As some parents — and their children — experience a wake-up call about buckling down and learning the basics of English grammar as they realize how essential it is for communication and future success.
Yet, I feel for my students. Frankly, I couldn’t imagine anything less enticing to do in the summer than reviewing grammar. So I’ve tried to think of what might help my students learn in a more palatable way. My seventh-grade classes this year enjoyed our gamified review of parts of speech at the year’s end using two apps, Zombie Grammar Force ($.99) and the Grammar Pop from Grammar Girl Mignon Fogerty. So with the help of my colleague, Sarah Cauthen, I created a grammar review playlist with my students in mind.
Some of us may have a nostalgic soft spot for Grammar Rock, a series of animated songs about grammar. My students still drop their jaws when I start singing “Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?…” But these classic cartoons hold up over time and, if I’m any measure of success, really stick, thanks to the snappy ditties of Bob Dorough and friends.
- “A Noun Is a Person, Place or Thing”
“Unpack Your Adjectives”
“Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here!”
“Conjunction Junction, What’s Your Function?”
Grammar Bytes (Youtube Channel)
Parents may wonder if their children are really studying grammar as they hear what’s coming from their children’s devices with this series. The funky beat and the silly slides make Grammar Bytes are as resistible as the lessons are thorough. Updated images and examples don’t hurt either.
Grammaropolis (Youtube Channel)
These clever animations use storytelling to personify parts of speech and make concepts clear. The use of humor and a range of musical parodies make it even more engaging. Beyond its Youtube channel, which students can access freely, the Grammaropolis website and its companion app provide a range of tools for student review, including games, videos, quizzes, and books. Memberships can be purchased by individuals, classes, or schools.
- “Noun Town”
- “Lights! Camera!! Action Verb!!!”
- “Paint the Way” (Adjectives)
- “Do You Qualify” (Adverbs)
- “A Merit Badge Is Just Like a Cat” (Prepositions)
Not surprisingly, TED-Ed provides a more esoteric look at some of the meanderings of English grammar for the nerdy grammarians among us. Teachers, parents, or enterprising students can create an account and add discussion questions and quizzes to the videos to test one another for fun.
- Zombie Nouns (Nominalizations)
- A Brief History of Plural Words
- English Grammar — Learn Prepositions
- Comma Story
- The Oxford Comma Debate
It’s Academic: Grammarly and Vocabulary.com
Grammarly is perhaps best known as an add-on tool to Chrome that allows users to check documents or even review possible grammar problems as they are composed online. This tool may first attract students for its immediate utility, but once they are drawn in, students can poke around in the more academic Grammarly Handbook, which also covers punctuation, mechanics, and sentence style and clarity. Similarly, Vocabulary.com is a great place for building vocabulary (see “The Challenge”), but it also includes some blog posts on proper language usage that are worth a read.
Celebrity Status: Grammar Girl
The more advanced students who grow truly enamored of grammar will want to check out Grammar Girl’s podcasts and blog. These go into quite astounding detail in their analysis of grammar and usage.
An Old Stand-by: The Elements of Style
The temple where I and many others my age really learned the rules of grammar is Strunk and White’s Elements of Style (downloadable for free). Its examples are clear and often amusing. The simplicity of the rules and their application make logical sense of what often seems arbitrary to the uninitiated. Many writers refer to this book as their bible for writing and style. It’s mine too.
Visualizations and Infographics
We shouldn’t overlook the power of graphics and design to drive home a tricky grammar rule. By way of example, Aleksandra Todorova offers 11 Infographics that Will Help You Improve Your Grammar and Spelling. A quick search on Pinterest can yield some equally impressive visualizations of English Language concepts — so I’ve gathered a few fun-looking ones nto my own Pinterest board on Grammar. (By the way, Grammar Girl and Grammarly also have boards on Pinterest.)
Why not have students use Easel.ly or Google Drawings or a host of other apps to create their own infographics or posters to illuminate their new understanding of grammar? They could create their own Youtube channels on grammar or design their own games for learning the rules of punctuation. Who knows, such enterprising students might share these things with their teachers; they might even have some fun and earn their teachers’ undying respect and adoration in the process.
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