Thursday, 2 March 2017

A Unique Approach to Teaching Grammar

Call me old fashioned, but I believe establishing a sound foundation in grammar in the early grades remains important and can be easily integrated into all aspects of a language arts program.

In this blog I will provide an overview of how I plan and teach my grammar program for Grades 2 and 3.

My approach involves:
  • introducing a daily activity at the beginning of the year called “Grammar  Morning Work” which involves spending fifteen minutes every day reviewing grammar rules and writing concepts;
  • using phonics and a unique symbol based teaching system; 
  • slowly introducing new grammar concepts and writing rules once students have mastered current lessons;
  • incorporating grammar skills in all aspects of my language program; and
  • actively involving students in the teaching process. 
My Approach

Grammar Morning Work

Grammar Morning Work

Within the first few days of a new school year, I introduce Grammar Morning Work which is included in my daily plan for the entire school year.  This includes teaching students the symbol system for the basic phonics and writing rules.

The next five days are spent doing what I refer to as grammar search which involves practising the symbols using a poem as detailed below. 

Once the students understand the system, a different student each week is given the job of symbol drawer and the teacher becomes an observer. 

Grammar First 

During the first class, I will start the lesson by discussing which letters of the alphabet are vowels and consonants.  As a class, we say the two sounds of vowels and then I demonstrate the symbols used to show if a vowel is a long or short sound in a word.  

Simplify with Symbols

I use a symbol based system that I have created that the students can use to identify various letter combinations such as blends, long and short vowels (mentioned above), endings and language rules of writing, etc.  For example, for the word “the”, I have a symbol (a tongue sticking out because your tongue sticks out when you say “th”) that shows the blend “th” is one blended sound and not two separate sounds. We say “th e”, not “t he”.  


I use a variety of symbols that help students recognize many other phonic blends.  I then move onto ending sounds such as “ing”.  To help the students remember this sound, I use a ringing bell symbol which would be placed above the “ing”. 


After teaching a lesson, I will display a poster of the symbols that have been covered.  I have a total of five posters that cover the full symbol system.   

Teaching Tips

I regularly use poems, which are a core requirement in our system, or short stories, to teach the various phonic sounds and symbols.  I will enlarge and laminate a poem so that students can draw symbols on it with washable markers.  I read the entire poem aloud with the students and discuss the type of poem it is and who the author is. 

I will expose two sentences on the enlarged poem or story per day.  I will ask the class what elements of grammar they see in these two sentences.   A student will say “I see a capital on the word May.” I will ask why there is a capital on the word and what symbol should I draw?  

This exercise will continue until we have marked all of the elements that have been taught to this point such as capitals, periods, endings, etc.  This activity usually takes about fifteen minutes. 

Once the students are familiar with the symbols, I assign one student per week to become the symbol drawer for the rest of the class which entails standing at the chart stand and drawing the symbols based on input from the other students.

The use of symbols is a very important part of this system since students can easily associate a descriptive visual symbol with a grammar element which aids in remembering new concepts.

Repeating this activity on a daily basis further reinforces the acquisition of grammar and writing rules.  

Start every month with a Grammar lesson

Grammar Writing
les Bundle 
At the beginning of every month, I teach a specific lesson on a different grammar topic – capitals, punctuation, nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, pronouns, endings, etc.  

I begin every grammar lesson with a read aloud grammar book. These books are available through suppliers such as Scholastics.   The book will be discussed followed by a lesson and then activities to reinforce the lesson.  

I have individual lessons for each grammar and writing rule concept as well as the complete Grammar Writing Rules Bundle for sale at my TpT store, Laurie’s Classroom. The Grammar Writing Rules Bundle contains all lesson plans, activities, assessments as well as posters for the entire school year.

Students will add a new symbol for each of these new lessons to their Grammar Morning Work activity. 

This progresses through the year as new grammar elements are added.

I will also incorporate grammar into other language lessons such as writing.  I will remind the students of the grammar lesson taught that month and make that one of the elements in my assessment of their writing.

The symbols can also be used to help students in their reading since they can apply the system to sound out new words they are not familiar with.  

The full Grammar Morning Work package is available at my TpT store, Laurie’s Classr
oom. This package includes step by step instructions on how to teach the symbol system, five posters illustrating the symbols, and two poems.   

Please visit Laurie’s Classroom, to check out all of my teaching products and free materials.  To get notices of TpT sales and new products, please follow me on TpT.

Stay tuned for my next blog.

Happy teaching.


Wednesday, 4 January 2017

My Guide to Daily 5

There are a number of ways to do Daily 5. This blog provides you with a structured approach to running your Daily 5 program.

As I mentioned in my My Guide to Guided Reading blog, I divide my class into five groups according to their guided reading level.   Each of the five groups attend a different center each day of the week.

In my approach, each center remains the same, with the same behavior expectations, throughout year.  For example, during silent reading, the tasks are either silent reading or writing a letter to the teacher about what they have read.  The only changes are the books the students are reading and the content of the letter.

This makes it easier to track student accomplishments because there are clearly defined tasks that the students must complete by the end of the center and hand in to the teacher. In this way the students remain on task to complete the expectation and your assessment can be included in the overall assessment of the reading and writing report card components.  

As well, students can concentrate on the material rather than learning new centers.

Setting Up Daily 5

I introduce the Daily 5 program at the start of the school year.  As referenced in the book, The Daily 5, by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, I start with demonstrating appropriate and inappropriate behavior when I introduce each center. 

For example, appropriate behavior for the guided reading center would be actively participating in the group discussion about the book they are reading as a group or quietly reading to the teacher. 

Inappropriate behavior would be reading when they are supposed to be discussing the book or talking to other students that are not in their group. I ask students to identify and role play inappropriate and appropriate behavior, which is not only fun for the students, but it clearly reinforces the rules. 

The following Daily 5 Posters and Stamina Charts are available free of charge at my TpT store.
Daily 5 Posters and Stamina Charts

The next step is to develop stamina by having the students practice the appropriate behavior and task for each center.  I begin by seeing if the students can complete the center's task appropriately for one minute.  If successful, I will praise them for their appropriate behavior and then increase to two minutes the next day.

This continues until the students can appropriately complete the center for ten minutes.  If a student acts inappropriately during this time, the timer stops and the students must review the appropriate behavior expectations and the timer begins again. The students will remain at the same timed session the next day until they can complete the session without any inappropriate behavior. 

Daily 5 Centers

1.  Silent Reading Center

I have a classroom library that I have color coded into reading levels. Each student is instructed to pick a silent reading book from their reading level/color.  If they are reading picture books, they need to choose two books.   Each student is given an exercise book. 


As mentioned previously, the silent reading center has two tasks, silent reading and writing a letter.  During the reading block, the students will have learned about a reading strategy.   During the writing block of my language arts program, the students will have learned the proper format for letter writing and how to write a letter for each reading strategy.  See my language block weekly planner below to see how I structure my language arts program for the week.

Language Block Weekly Planner 
At the end of every month, students must have completed and handed in at least two letters.   They get to choose the two letters I assess for letter format and the reading strategy focused on that month.

2.  Listening to Reading/RAZ Center

For my second center, I use RAZ which is a computer program purchased by our school which allows the students to listen to books at their own reading level and answer comprehension questions. 

If RAZ is not available to you, you could purchase or make CD books for your listening center.  


The RAZ program evaluates the student’s performance for you. If you are using books on CD’s you could have the students write a short summary for the story or draw a visualisation as your assessment.

3.  Grammar/Word Work Center

Grammar and Writing
Rules Bundle
During the writing block of my language arts program, I teach one grammar concept every other week and a word list the opposite week.  The students complete work sheets relating to the weekly grammar concept or word lists.  

At the end of the week once all students have been through the center, they complete a grammar test or spelling test.  These are included in the my Grammar and Writing Rules Bundle and units that are sold separately at my TpT store, Laurie's Classroom.

4. Guided Reading Center and 5. Comprehension Questions Center 

Please see my previous blog, My Guide to Guided Reading, on how I approach these two Daily 5 centers.


Students must read their assigned reading in order to answer the comprehension questions. Comprehension questions need to be completed in order to participate in the discussion of the chapter at the next guided reading session.

I hope you've found this blog informative.  My other teaching blogs, which are applicable for Grades 1 through 4, are as follows:

7 Tips for the First Day Back to School
My Guide to Guided Reading
Long Range Planning

Please visit my TpT store, Laurie's Classroom, to check out all of my teaching products and free materials.   

Stay tuned for my next blog.

Happy teaching.