Teaching Grammar & Mechanics: Techniques & Strategies

Instructor: Derek Hughes
Grammar and language mechanics are important technical skills for students to learn if they want to become successful communicators. However, teaching these skills can be slightly boring or dry. These techniques and strategies will help you teach grammar and mechanics in an engaging manner.

Grammar and Mechanics

Much like the colors of a masterpiece painting or the individual notes of a piece of music, grammar and mechanics are the building blocks of communication. Grammar and mechanics are the rules, procedures, and guidelines for written or spoken communication in any language. Without grammar and mechanics, languages would be just a series of words, unable to be put together to make meaning.

While that explanation of what grammar and mechanics are was fun to write (and I hope fun to read!), actually getting down to the nitty-gritty of teaching these rules and guidelines can sometimes be less fun. The strategies in this lesson will help make your presentations on these skills more engaging and informative for everyone involved.

Direct Instruction

First, I want to get the most obvious and uninteresting strategy out of the way. There is no denying that you will often need to do some direct instruction to teach grammar and mechanics. Often, students will have never heard some of the terms and concepts you are teaching, and they will need to have them explained and demonstrated directly before they can begin practicing them.

One way I've found to make these lessons a bit more exciting is to use interesting language and sentences in your examples and modeling. For example, if you are teaching verbs, all of your example sentences could build to a conclusion, much like a story. Using the same main characters in each sentence can increase students' interest in the story, while also learning how to identify verbs.

Practice, Practice, Practice

While direct instruction is useful for introducing new skills and concepts, it's not enough. Students need a chance to practice the skill you taught them in a variety of different activities. They also need to see the skill in different contexts. Giving the students the opportunity to practice the skill as much as possible in different ways is key to keeping them attentive, so they can master it.

An appealing activity that can really help students is to ask them to find examples of the grammar skill or mechanic they learned about in different books, papers, or posters they see throughout the day. Students can show written or photographic evidence of this. For example, if the students are out with their parents one night and they see a sign with proper comma use, they can snap a quick photo to show the following day.


You may see that heading up there and think 'ugh, no, not a chance for my students to act crazy and not actually do anything'. However, a well-planned and structured game can be incredibly useful in helping students master a grammar or mechanic skill. As long as you have a clear objective for the game in mind and students understand the expectations for playing, games can be a good break from the usual work.

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