07 Oct Fun Ways To Improve Your Child’s English Grammar
The best way to improve your child’s English grammar is to immerse them in a language rich environment and to encourage your child to use English as much as possible. This could be talking about things that are happening, describing something they like or don’t like, or reading lots of stories and discussing them. This will demonstrate correct use of English grammar in many contexts. As a parent, you can then correct mistakes that your child makes when they produce English.
In this blog I will discuss the DOS and DON’TS of teaching your child grammar.
What Is Grammar?
The most simple definition is that grammar is the set of rules, principles, and assumptions for producing (i.e. speaking or writing) a language. Always remember that the point of grammar is that people can communicate accurately and understand what a speaker or writer really means.
Don’t Get Too Caught Up In Trying To Teach Each Grammar Point Individually
This is too overwhelming and confusing for children. When teaching grammar, always think of the big picture, give example sentences that are correct, which your child can follow. If they make a mistake, don’t lecture them about tenses, simply give the corrected sentence.
Do Always Use Full Sentences
Every time you speak to your child you have an opportunity of giving a demonstration of excellent English. Your child will copy your phrasings, sentence styles and pronunciation. They will copy the good and the bad! So it’s really important to think about what you say and how you say it. Another thing to remember is that children are expert at adapting sentences for different situations. For example if you say “I like apples, they are yummy.” Your child might remember that sentence structure and replace apples for their favourite food. Really focus on getting adjectives, prepositions and tenses correct as these are difficult to learn.
Do Always Use And Expand On What Your Child Says
If your child says something, then that means it’s of interest to them! A simple strategy that I always use is to expand or correct the sentence a child says to me. Example 1: Your child says “no, water” you can respond with “You don’t want to drink water?” Example 2: If you child gives a good sentence, you can add “because”. If they say “I don’t want to eat.” You can say “Why is that? You don’t want to eat because …” This encourages your child to give more detail to their thoughts.
Don’t Speak Like A Baby
It’s tempting, especially when children are younger, to mimic their cute speaking mannerisms and pronunciations. However, this is a mistake and it can reinforce bad habits and slow your child’s development. Even when a child is young, always use the correct words, correct pronunciations and full correct sentences. If you want to help your child understand, focus on slowing your speech and keeping it as clear as possible.
Do Read Stories Daily
Children who are regularly read to always have far superior overall language skills than those who don’t get that exposure. I’ve written a specific post about [link] why you should read to your child. Reading to your child will give lots of examples of good grammar within the different stories. Reading also allows many opportunities for discussion, and in these discussions you can help your child to keep improving their grammar.
Don’t Spend Endless Hours On Grammar Exercises
individual grammar exercises are usually extremely boring and too abstract. Only use them sparingly. In my experience of teaching non native students, many of them perform well at these exercises, however when it comes to actually producing sentences, they are not sure how to do it. Using correct sentence examples is much more effective.
Do Comment And Explain Everything You Are Doing
it’s easy to go through life doing things without thinking. Your child will always want to know why you are doing something and what you think of it, however they may not think to ask. You can comment on why you are bringing an umbrella outside, (because you see rainclouds) or why you have chosen a restaurant to eat at (it has a nice lunch menu). Whenever you commentate on what you are doing and why, your child will most likely have a lot of follow up questions. This gives you great opportunities to chat with them and demonstrate excellent grammar!
Do Make Flashcards
I recommend writing partial sentences on flashcards. Your child can use them when speaking or writing, or even when they find a similar sentence in a book. You can even play a game where your child picks random sentence snippets out of a hat and tries to make funny sentences with them. For example: I like ____ / I don’t like ____. Another example: Yesterday, I went to _____ / Tomorrow, I will go to _____.
Don’t Try To Fix Everything At Once
A classic mistake is to try to correct every grammatical error a child makes. There are 2 reasons this doesn’t work. Firstly, it’s too much information to take in and to remember, if you correct 3 or 4 things at once, your child has no hope of remembering each of those corrections and applying them to their English. Secondly, it will harm their confidence, if a child is constantly corrected and interrupted, they will lose their confidence and be less likely to try to step out of their comfort zone for fear of being wrong. Instead of correcting every mistake, concentrate on the grammatical topics that your child is currently working on.
Do Make Games
A fun activity is to take a grammar point that you are focusing on with your child, for example past tense, when you are reading a book. Ask your child to point out any past tense verbs that they can find. This is a great way to highlight the frequency that a given grammar point is used and allows your child to pick out its correct usage. A second activity is ‘change the word’ this can be similar to the previous activity. Take a page of a story and ask your child to find all of a type of word, for example all adjectives or prepositions. Ask them to read the page and change each one as they go. A third fun activity is ‘spot the error.’ You can write or say sentences that have a mistake or mistakes in them, ask your child to point out and correct mistakes.