The current Primary Curriculum puts a detailed knowledge of English grammar high on the list of skills that schools, curriculums and exams expect children to have before leaving primary school. There is an entire SAT paper devoted to assessing grammar, and there’s a lot of it! It’s fascinating stuff, but can also be quite daunting, especially to anyone whose own school days didn’t focus too much on such things – which is quite a few of us! So here are some (hopefully) straightforward suggestions to help parents, teaching staff and children get to grips with grammar, in this case, nouns and determiners.
Make sets of cards using different colours for common nouns, proper nouns and abstract nouns. Invite children to pick one of each and create a sentence using all three. Have a rule that only allows them to use one article as a determiner (only use a, an or the once) so that they practise using different determiners. For example, if someone picked Tuesday, puppy and jealousy they could create…
My sister was full of jealousy when I collected my new puppy last Tuesday.
Do not let your students change the words! Children will find it really hard not to switch jealousy to jealous!
Use reading books or a shared text to pick out all the nouns and their determiners. Discuss what the determiner in each case is telling us about the noun (how much of it, who it belongs to, which one it is etc). Create a class list of determiners.
Have a large bag of small objects (classroom equipment, plastic toys – anything!) and a set of cards with different determiners. In a group, invite someone to pick an object from the bag. Around the group, take turns to pick a determiner card and create a different sentence about the object using that determiner.
For example, the sentences might go something like: A blue pencil flew over the school. That blue pencil nearly hit me! Some blue pencils can talk. My blue pencil has broken. Plenty of blue pencils can be cooked in cheese sauce.
The sillier, the better – as long as the grammar is correct!
Create sentences for children to pick out the nouns. Make sure there is enough challenge; use words that can belong to more than one class such as plant, jump, dream, book etc. and include abstract nouns.
Make a collection of collective nouns! There are many lovely books available which list collective nouns because they can be very poetic – an exaltation of larks, a murder of crows, a plague of locusts, a scourge of mosquitoes...
You can find more on the internet (see this article from The Guardian!) Much more fun is to create your own collective nouns, based on qualities – a point of pencils, a squish of rubbers, a flutter of paper… Pick a theme, make up some collective nouns and turn them into class poetry!
Written by Mim Barnes