Tips for Making Grammar Engaging and Memorable

Teaching that Sticks

One of the main goals for teachers is to make learning memorable.  In their article Teaching that Sticks, Chip Heath and Dan Heath suggest there are six characteristics that make ideas ‘stick’. A sticky idea is:

  • Simple                        Delivers a core message
  • Unexpected              Gets and holds attention
  • Concrete                    Helps learners understand and remember
  • Credible                     Helps learners believe
  • Emotional                  Makes learners care and appeals to their identity
  • Story                           Inspires and stimulates learners

Here’s a PDF you can download to help you make your lessons more memorable. 

We take these six traits and apply them to the teaching of grammar so that students have a better chance of retaining what they learn and being able to apply grammar knowledge to their speaking and writing. Here are five tips for making grammar more engaging and memorable.

All examples in this blog come from Grammar in Context, 7th edition.

1.  Use great stories

Great stories engage the learner. 

After the reading, you can have the students guess what grammar point they are going to learn by having them look at the bolded words.  This helps determine what learners already know and can give learners a boost of confidence.

2.  Use photos to capture the unexpected and elicit emotion

Photography should be part of every lesson. Here are some creative ways to use photos in class (Dummett and Hughes, 2018)

  1. Assess the moment: Ask students, “What is happening and what will happen next? What happened before?” 

2. Create a title: Have learners decide what the best title for a photograph is.  (There is no right answer.) 

Activity:  What is the best title for this photograph?

  1. Thrill-seeking
  2. Dangerous Behavior
  3. Extreme Sports
  4. Emergency Lifeguard Training

You could also add sentences starters so learners can work on comparatives and superlatives. 

I think title 1 is a ____________than title 2 because….

The _________title for this photo is_________________ because….

3. Infer the photographer’s intent:

Ask students questions like these to get at intent: “What was the photographer trying to capture?  What  emotion did the photographer communicate? What was the photographer feeling?

4.  Write a caption

Ask students to write a caption for a photo. You can also ask them to use the grammar point in their caption.

5.  Create a dialogue or monologue or thought bubble

Students can make it funny, dramatic, casual, or poignant.

3. Use concrete applications and Make Grammar Fun

Using games, roles plays, and storytelling in class allows learners to practice grammar points in a fun and lively way. 

This grammar game helps learners understand and remember the passive voice.

In this role play activity, learners role play unusual jobs.

In this storytelling activity, learners are encouraged to be creative and apply the grammar into their personal lexicon.

4. Make grammar credible by personalizing the content

Personalizing the grammar helps learners attach the grammar to their long-term memory. Grammar takes on a real purpose and has meaning for students. Below are two examples of how personalization can help students take ownership of new language.

5.  Keep it simple with technology

The Classroom Presentation Tool is easy to use in a flipped or online classroom.  The tool projects the student book pages, contains interactive activities with answers, and plays the audio.  

Online Practice provides a variety of interactive grammar activities for homework and online studying. Students get the practice they need to help solidify their understanding and use of grammar.

The Online Practice is an easy way for you to monitor student progress in your class. 

Watch Laura Le Drean’s full webinar on Making Grammar Memorable here.

Author: Laura Le Dréan

Laura Le Dréan is Executive Editor at National Geographic Learning, in charge of the academic and professional development lists. She has an M.A. in TESOL/TEFL from San Francisco State University. She has over 20 years of teaching experience in ESL/EFL programs in the Middle East, Europe and the United States. She has also done teacher training in the U.S., the Middle East and in Vietnam. She has been working in ELT publishing as an editor for the last 19 years creating learning materials for students and teachers.

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