Engaging grammar games for review in the middle or high school ELA classroom
Like many other skills, grammar concepts need to be reviewed. It’s okay to move on from a grammar unit when not everyone has mastered the skill if you know you will be spiraling back to that content regularly. Teachers can review grammar throughout the year to solidify understanding, to build confidence, to scaffold learning, and to engage students.
However, grammar review does not always have to necessitate worksheets. So. Let’s look at some grammar games to engage middle and high school students in productive review sessions.
GRAMMAR TRUTH OR DARE
Get students to review basic skills and apply concepts important to reading and writing with a friendly game of Truth or Dare.
Truth prompts can be considered basic review questions. Example: Explain the debate about the Oxford comma.
Conversely, Dare prompts might be harder questions or silly challenges. Go deeper with application when possible. Example: Give a one-minute monologue about everyone in your family without using any names – only pronouns!
I use two different versions of this Grammar Truth or Dare game: one for students who are more reserved and another for those who enjoy being goofy.
REVISION GRAMMAR AND WRITING GAME
If your students need to revise and edit their writing, integrate grammar. Put together a game board with the skills you want students to focus on. For example, students might look for comma errors, sentence variety, and parallel structure.
When it is a student’s turn, allow him or her to select the square from the game board they want to complete. As they revise their essays, students can color-code their changes with corresponding prompts on the game board.
Worried students won’t find their mistakes? Do a partner or small group format of this game, and spend time working with each group.
Not in the middle of an essay unit? It’s okay! This game can easily be used with sample writing pieces as well.
Ready to get started? Download this grammar revision Connect 4 game.
At the end of a unit, review key concepts with a dice game. They usually enjoy adding a little flair to parts of speech and types of sentences, for instance. Have students play in small groups or with partners to keep skills fresh and add accountability.
If you picture designing a grammar lesson like creating a menu, games and activities are like the side dishes. Students need layered practice that comes in different formats. Maybe mentor sentences are one of their side dishes, and games are another.
I create game boards to build in previous concepts so that students are not only reviewing current skills but also spiraling back to previously taught concepts. Dice games can also be differentiated by student readiness levels.
Mentor sentences aren’t the only way to get students implementing grammar skills in writing. Ask students to begin with a basic sentence and then add onto it.
For example, let’s say the original sentence we give students is The dog barked. We can then ask students to build on to that sentence, one grammar concept at a time.
First, maybe we ask them to add a dependent clause as a transitional element.
As the mailman approached, the dog barked.
Then, we might tell students to add adverbs for description.
As the mailman approached, the dog barked ferociously.
As you can see, this process can continue for a while. Play this game as a class or in small groups. After each group has submitted a sentence to a shared class doc, study them together. Give awards for the strongest sentence. Tell students they can’t vote for their own group’s contribution so that their bias is removed and they really take time to analyze the other examples.
Add a brain-based aspect by color-coding grammar elements. Find a simplified version of this build-a-sentence grammar activity that you can use to get started here.
Help students identify grammar skills in writing by asking them to go on a scavenger hunt for specific concepts. They can look through a common text or choice reading books. For example, you might ask students to find a sentence that uses an attribution tag with correct punctuation.
Teachers can guide this activity to keep the class well paced. Set a timer and give each group who finds an example a point (in the game, not the grade book). If you prefer, students can play at their own pace. Just create a page of directions with space for students to write the examples they find in their reading. This approach frees you up to provide small group support.
Students will enjoy a light-hearted game of silent telephone, reminiscent of the telephone ice breaker game where players whisper ideas to their neighbors until the reaches the last player in line.
In telephone grammar, the first person writes a grammar concept on a slip of paper and passes it to the next student. No talking allowed!
The second student reads the paper, puts it on the bottom of the pile, and writes an example on the next clean paper. That student passes the stack to the next person, who puts the example on the bottom of the pile and writes the grammar term he or she thinks best applies to the example written by the previous student. (See below – the example also includes a connection sketch.)
The goal is to finish the game and have the original grammar concept emerge. If the end concept is different than the beginning, ask students to talk about why. Exploring perspectives will give you insight as to whether they are confused or if the examples do have multiple acceptable concepts associated with them.
Troubleshooting: If students have issues selecting grammar concepts for the game, determine the topic for them at the beginning. Takes too long to complete? Divide the class into two or three smaller groups to play.
With each grammar review game, it’s important to make sure students know why they are playing. What is the takeaway? To…reinforce content? apply to writing? manipulate language? encourage inquiry? see grammar from a different angle?
Grammar review should be fun, but not fluff. Always check to make sure grammar games align to grade-level standards in order to establish the validity for using them.
Looking for more engaging grammar review ideas? Here are a few grammar activities from Language Arts Classroom.
Looking for engaging grammar games for middle or high school? This resource contains two of my favorite review grammar games: Truth or Dare and Grammar Dice Game Boards.