How to Teach Grammar in High School

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Do you have a high school student who struggles with grammar? Or do you have a soon-to-be high school student and no idea how to approach grammar at this stage? This is the Homeschool Sanity Show, the episode where I share a sane approach to teaching grammar in high school.

Hey, homeschoolers! If you've struggled to help your high schooler use correct grammar in writing or if the thought of teaching it in the high school years gives you the heebie geebies, I have good news.

The high school years are the perfect time to learn grammar.

First, high school students have the abstract reasoning ability required to truly understand and implement grammar. As I've explained to parents of elementary students many times, these younger students simply aren't developmentally prepared to master the abstraction of grammar. It's similar to the abstract reasoning ability required to master algebra. Sure, some students develop this reasoning ability earlier, but most don't. Up until this point in their development, they were working hard to decode and pronounce words and determine the meaning of words given the context of the sentence. Asking them to determine the role of the word in a sentence as well is extra challenging.

That's why I made Grammar Galaxy a fun, confidence-building introduction to grammar and other language arts in the elementary years. I didn't want them avoiding grammar once the were developmentally ready to use it in their writing.

The second reason high school is the perfect time to learn grammar is because they have begun to care about it. When students are in classes with other students and sharing in speech or writing, they will want to avoid the embarrassment of poor grammar. I capitalized on this peer pressure with my own kids with great results. In the English classes I taught, students read their writing aloud and passed it to a friend to read aloud. This performance pressure rapidly improved my students' grammar and spelling. High school students also begin to use messaging and email and do not want to have poor grammar and spelling for their friends to see. Some of them will be interested in learning grammar for the first time as a result.

Finally, high school is a great time to teach grammar because these students can learn independently. With the developmental ability and new motivation, students can use grammar curriculum to learn more quickly than they could have in elementary school. With instruction, they will learn to make better use of automatic editors like Grammarly. Like all writers, they will still require another human editor–whether that's you, an outside instructor, or a friend with good grammar. I have found high school students learn from this editing feedback very quickly.

I hope I've convinced you that your teen isn't behind or incapable of growing as a writer if they still need to master grammar.

But now the question becomes how to teach it.

The first step is to encourage your student to continue reading for pleasure. Studies indicate that high school students tend to spend more time with friends than reading as much as they did in their earlier years. They also tend to use reading time for study instead of leisure. But reading for enjoyment is the key to developing your student's vocabulary, grammar, and writing. Invest time helping your student find enjoyable books and making time to read them in their schedule.

The next step in teaching high school grammar is to reinforce the purpose of it. Reluctant students want to know why they should care. Using prescreened, funny grammar memes and examples is a great way to do this. Because I write grammar curriculum, my high school student loves pointing out grammar errors he finds. You can have fun with this, too. Consider having a competition to find grammar errors.

Many of the principles of teaching high school grammar are the same as teaching younger students.

  • First, keep grammar instruction short. I think of grammar like a tennis drill. When I take a tennis lesson, I enjoy doing a short drill on volleys. But doing an hour of it without playing the game would be a buzz kill.
  • Make grammar memorable. When grammar concepts are taught using relevant humor, multimedia, games, and with adequate repetition, students will remember it. (Grammar teaching podcast).
  • Limit the corrections to a student's writing. Correcting all the grammar and spelling mistakes at once can be demoralizing for a budding writer. Tell your student ahead of time which grammar issues you'll be looking for. Consider limiting your first review to the content. Give as much positive feedback as possible. Then go over the specific grammar skills you're working on. If your student asks for more feedback, then give it. But otherwise limit your editing to those skills.

How to Choose a Grammar Curriculum for High School

When choosing a grammar curriculum for high school, you haven't had many options. There are worksheet drills indistinguishable from elementary and middle school curriculum. There are the thoroughly dry English curricula that have sentences unrelated to story or to teens' lives. And then there are brief reviews that are optional. My students didn't learn anything from these.

The number one request I get from Grammar Galaxy booth visitors at Great Homeschool Conventions is a curriculum for high school. I knew that the Grammar Galaxy story line wasn't well suited to older teens, so I created a new fictional curriculum. Kirk English, the programming whiz kid in Grammar Galaxy, has developed a program to deal the failure of autocorrect. His Fast Grammar training is for human autocorrectors. These trainees will get to know clients' intentions so they can correct their grammar in real time through the power of science fiction.

The client in the training is a high school student who has typical teen troubles as well as high school writing assignments. Students who use Fast Grammar correct the client's grammar while learning it themselves. Trainees will look forward to getting the client's updates in each lesson.

Fast Grammar is a supplemental, secular curriculum that can be used with any high school literature or writing program. The brief lessons can be completed in one sitting or preferentially, spread out over the week. Like Grammar Galaxy, much of the lesson can be completed with a highlighter. Homophone graphics are included each week because choosing the wrong homophone is a common and embarrassing problem for writers.

The curriculum is completely independent, with the solutions at the back of the student book. At the end of each unit, teachers can administer a test that is available in a separate PDF download. The solutions will help you score the test and give a grade that can contribute to the English grade for the year.

Click here to download a complete lesson. If you'll be joining me at the Great Homeschool Conventions this year, you can see it in person. The week of this broadcast, the curriculum is 20% off in print or digital.

Whether you try Fast Grammar or not, I hope I've given you hope that high school can be the time that your student grasps grammar. Give some of these strategies a try, and I feel confident that you'll see your high schooler's writing improve.

Have a happy homeschool week!

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Author: Dr. Mel

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