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Tips for Teaching Grammar in the Secondary Classroom—and Making it Effective and Engaging

    tips for teaching grammar to secondary students

    Are you dreading teaching grammar? You’re not alone. Teaching grammar is a challenge. Learn six useful tips for teaching grammar in the secondary classroom so that it won’t be such a drag—for you or your students.

    Teaching grammar in any classroom is challenging. Yet, teaching grammar in the secondary classroom seems to be a beast of its own. Why? Because by this point in their education career, many students have learned to dread the G-word. Grammar? How boring, right?

    Here’s the catch: It doesn’t need to be boring.

    If you’re tired of rolling your eyes at correcting the same old grammatical mistakes again and again. If you read more incomplete and run-on sentences than you do complete and correct ones. If you’re running out of red ink and wondering where you went wrong, it might be time to switch up how you teach grammar to your secondary students. And, if you’re one of those teachers who opt to avoid the eye rolls and skip grammar instruction, it might be time for you to consider a new approach too.

    The bottom line? Grammar instruction has gotten a bad rap. But times are changing, my friends and fellow teachers. Teaching grammar can be done in a way that is both effective and engaging.

    Keep reading to learn how.

    Teaching Grammar in the Secondary Classroom and Why it Matters

    In a world where texting, slang, and emojis seem to have taken over, it’s easy to assume grammar has gone out the window. However, I would beg to differ. As teachers, it’s our job to fight for the foundation of clear communication and remind students that grammar does matter.

    I know, I know. There’s much to teach, so little time, right? (Additionally, when you’re met with nothing but grunts and groans at the mere mention of grammar, it’s tempting to want to skip the topic altogether. But that’s not doing anyone any good. You will keep seeing the mistakes over and over again and your students won’t learn why they’re mistakes or how to fix them.

    Additionally, the more students understand (not just memorize) the function and rules of grammar, they will become better writers. While it’s easy to justify the importance of strong writing in the ELA classroom, the reason for teaching grammar goes beyond the walls of any school. The truth is, grammar is a part of our everyday lives. It’s the backbone of clear communication. If we can move beyond the negative stereotypes students have assigned to grammar, they’ll realize it really isn’t that bad.

    So, no. Grammar shouldn’t be something you simply check off your list of things to teach. It should be something you teach with intention and care.

    … but how?

    Teaching Grammar: What Not to Do

    When discussing how to teach grammar in a way that is effective and engaging, I find it easiest to start with what not to do. The teaching methods and approaches to grammar outlined below are not only part of why the aspect of language has a bad reputation, but they’re simply not effective (or engaging).

    I’ll be honest. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to teaching grammar. The best thing to do, as always, is to adjust your approach to meet the needs of your particular group of students. However,  there are some methods that research have proved rather ineffective (and students have deemed borning):

    • Teaching grammar in isolation. Instead, it should be paired with reading and writing to give it a more meaningful context and concrete application.
    • Assuming “they already know it.” Instead, don’t assume until you assess.
    • Assessing every single grammatical mistake a student makes. Instead, only assess grammatical aspects you’ve taught (or, at least, reviewed).
    • Relying on arbitrary worksheets to get the job done. Instead, integrate grammar lessons with various contexts and mentor texts.
    • Adopting a “one and done” mentality. Instead, continue to build upon and reinforce grammar rules and concepts throughout the year.
    • Avoiding teaching grammar altogether. Instead, be intentional about what and how you teach regarding grammar. Don’t worry, this post will help you figure out where to start!

    Tips for Teaching Grammar in the Secondary Classroom


    Would it be great to teach everything under the grammatical sun? Of course! But we both know that’s highly unlikely thanks to the well-known teacher time crunch. Therefore, as you get to know your students, focus on the grammar that would be most beneficial to them.

    However, with time being a precious commodity, you certainly don’t want to waste it. Therefore, one of the best things you can do regarding grammar instruction is have students complete a grammar assessment at the start of the school year. Then, you can use the results as a way to establish the needs of your class and begin outlining your approach to grammar instruction for the year. 

    Still not sure where to start? Teaching the proper use of commas, subject-verb agreement, and commonly misused homophones are always great places to start—even if it’s a review.

    Bonus Teacher Tip: Additionally, pay attention to patterns of poor grammar. As you review your student’s work, be sure to note any recurring errors. It might be a sign that it’s time for a review. Additionally, you can use this ame approach to help guide which topics you’ll teach next. Identify where your students are struggling and be sure to address them in your grammar instruction.


    Teaching grammar rules only goes so far if the context stops at sample sentences. While an isolated and annotated sentence might help students recognize a grammar rule at first, that will only go so far.

    Once a rule is established, it’s important to showcase it being used in a less isolated context. If you’re teaching students about semicolons, find examples of them in real text and discuss not only the structure of that particular sentence, but its impact on the surrounding text as well. By using mentor texts in your grammar instructions, students will start to see that grammar doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Instead, it can unlock new levels of understanding an author’s craft.

    The best part? To understand grammar is also to understand when, how, and why one might break the traditional rules (students always love this part). However, even breaking grammar rules must be done so with intention—otherwise the result is jumbled ideas and confusion. When looking at mentor texts, engage students in conversations about the grammatical choices authors make and the impact it has on the overall tone, mood, and message.


    There’s no denying that grammar and writing go hand-in-hand. Therefore, just as it’s useful to show students grammar rules in action through mentor texts, it’s important to get students using those rules in writing. Truthfully, seeing correct grammar will only go so far. To help build better grammar habits, students need to practice utilizing them in context.

    While there are certainly benefits to be had from analyzing grammar in the context of mentor texts, even that will only go so far. The next step is to get students to use grammar on their own. This encourages them to explore when and how to apply the grammar rules they’ve learned. As students implement and explore concepts of grammar in their own writing, they are able to witness firsthand how grammar rules work to convey and clarify meaning, add emphasis, set the tone, and create flow—just to name a few.


    Teaching grammar is only part of the equation. The other part? Reinforcing. Therefore, you cannot expect to see students improving their grammar if you’re not holding them accountable. Once you introduce a grammatical concept with your students and have given them time to practice it, make sure it becomes an expectation.

    For example, once you’ve covered comma splices, it should become the expectation that students don’t use them in their writing assignments. However, there’s power in allowing students to fix their mistakes. Giving students an opportunity to identify where they went wrong and rework it so it’s right will help them see their mistakes, build their confidence, and enforce proper grammar.


    While it often feels like Grammar lives in the ELA classroom, that’s simply not the case. Grammar is more than recognizing comma splices and parts of speech. Grammar is the set of rules that govern our entire system of communication. It’s about how words interact with one another to create and clearly communicate ideas.

    In reality, students need to understand and implement correct grammar beyond the walls of your classroom. Sure, grammar might be assessed on essays and standardized tests. However, students also use correct grammar at college or in their career.

    Therefore, grammar isn’t just a “need-to-teach” skill for the ELA classroom. It’s a necessary skill for life.

    Is it totally normal to text your family and friends in incomplete sentences and popular  shorthands, like OMG and IDK? Of course! However, there are plenty of instances where poor grammar would result in worse consequences than a poor grade:

    • Filling out a college or job application
    • Writing essays in college
    • Writing a resume or cover letter
    • Writing a letter or email


    Can teaching grammar be boring? Absolutely. However, it’s important to realize that it can be as memorable and fun as you are willing to make it. Outdated textbook examples and worksheets are enough to make anyone roll their eyes, even the teacher. So, it’s time to get creative! Here are some ways to make grammar instruction and examples more enjoyable for students:

    • Develop examples that use student names, pop culture, and local references. Hearing these references are more likely to grab student’s attention and stick in their minds.
    • Color code your examples to make them POP. This nice change up for the classic black and while text students are used to seeing will help them see the grammar in action.
    • Create a grammar meme wall and encourage students to add to it throughout the year. Some of my favorites include: Visuals of “Let’s eat Grandma” and “You’re dinner.”
    • Analyze grammar in popular texts and song lyrics, discussing when, how, and why grammar rules are (or aren’t) used.

    The bottom line? Keeping your grammar instruction relevant, fresh, and fun will naturally be more engaging for students. Once students are engaged, they might realize it really isn’t so bad afterall. (#goals)

    Besides, the more your students know about grammar, the better communicators and writers they will be. The better writers and communicators they are, the more enjoyable your grading will be. If that’s the case, everyone wins!

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