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Grammar beyond English: six ways to reinforce grammar and punctuation across the curriculum

08 March 2017

Grammar beyond English: six ways to reinforce grammar and punctuation across the curriculum

Schofield & Sims author Carol Matchett provides six strategies for extending teaching of grammar and punctuation skills across the curriculum.

With the advent of the 2014 curriculum, grammar has once again come to the fore as a key discipline. This is no bad thing, as grammar is a valuable tool for successful communication in all areas of learning. But how can you help your pupils bridge the gap between using correct grammar – and punctuation, for that matter – in an English lesson, and applying it across the board?

The answer lies beyond the national tests – and beyond the English curriculum as a whole. Identifying opportunities to reinforce grammar in other curriculum subjects will encourage your pupils to use grammar correctly in any context, whether it be explaining coastal erosion, predicting the results of a science experiment or imagining what life in Roman Britain was like. 

To this end, here are six practical ideas to help you extend your teaching of grammar and punctuation across the curriculum:

1.  Reinforcing word classes

Help pupils to grasp these vital concepts by referring to word classes by name in all subjects. Repeatedly hearing terminology such as ‘noun’, ‘adjective’, ‘verb’ and ‘conjunction’ will help to reinforce its function. For example, in a science lesson where children are reporting their findings, you could create a display of conjunctions for them to use in their explanations (e.g. The plants did not grow as it was too cold. The roots need space so they can spread out.). Use the display to point out that conjunctions are helpful for joining up ideas to show cause and effect.

2.  Embedding grammatical constructions 

Looking at grammatical constructions in context will help children to understand how they are used. For example, in food technology, you might challenge pupils to design a recipe for a lunchtime salad. When researching recipes, draw attention to how adverbials are used to add detail about where, when and how each step is done (e.g. Carefully, cut the cucumber into thin slices.). You could then give the pupils a basic set of instructions and ask them to add adverbials to make the instructions for their salad clearer. 

3. Constructing sentences 

As pupils learn to use increasingly complex sentence structures, you should encourage them to use what they know to convey ideas effectively in all their writing. For example, you could use a geography lesson to show how a factual text can be improved by using parenthesis to insert additional information (e.g. the height of a mountain or a definition of a technical term such as ‘altitude’) without starting a new sentence. 

4. Using verb forms/tense 

You can help develop pupils' understanding of verb forms by using them in other subject areas. In history, you could discuss the use of the simple past and present tenses when comparing life in Victorian or Tudor times with life today. You could ask pupils to orally rehearse and write pairs of sentences contrasting the different time periods (e.g. Today, we play with... Then, they played with...; Today, we wear... Then, they wore...).

5. Using punctuation 

It can be a struggle to get your pupils to use punctuation consistently in their writing. It is vital to establish the expectation that it should be used in all subjects across the curriculum – even maths! For example, when working on word problems, you could draw attention to commas in lists, question marks and full stops (e.g. Emily buys an apple for 15p, a pear for 50p and a pineapple for £1. How much does Emily spend?). Work through a problem together. The children could then work in pairs to write some similar mathematical problems for their classmates to solve. 

6. Developing vocabulary

Topic work – in geography, history, or science – provides ideal opportunities for building vocabulary and reinforcing ideas about word structure. In science, you could use pupils’ knowledge of the suffix 'ness' to expand their vocabulary. First, ask them to suggest adjectives to describe different materials (e.g. shiny, smooth, stretchy) and then prompt them to turn these into nouns that name properties that they could test for (e.g. stiffness, smoothness, stretchiness). They could then use comparative adjectives (e.g. shinier, smoother) to report their findings.

Carol Matchett is an experienced teacher and author of the Schofield & Sims Grammar and Punctuation, Spelling and English Skills series.

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