Elementary students begin learning the parts of speech as early as second grade. They need to understand that each part of speech has a different job to do in order to create clear communication. Activities that encourage the use of mind and body reinforce the learning process and help elementary students master the parts of speech and understand their purpose in language.
Color-Coded Parts of Speech
Have students cut out three word cards from eight different colors of cardstock. Each color represents a different part of speech. Instruct them to write three words from each category accordingly. For example, “Write three adjectives on the three blue cards; write three adverbs on the green cards.” Collect the cards and gather them into stacks according to color, shuffle them, and pass them back out to the class so that each student gets three of each color. Have students create sentences using the cards. Tell them to make one serious sentence and one nonsense sentence.
Students in grades three and up can participate in this activity. Divide students into eight groups. Label each group with one of the eight parts of speech. Hang large pieces of poster board around the classroom and label each chart with one of the parts of speech. Have students gather around their corresponding chart. Create several sentence strips that include all eight parts of speech. Pass the sentence strips around to each station, instructing students to write the words in the sentence that correspond to their chart. For instance, for the sentence, “Wow! My sister and I will go to Italy and taste all the amazing food there!” students at the “noun” station will write “sister,” “Italy” and “food.” They will then pass the sentence strip to the “verb” station, and the students there will write “will go” and “taste.”
Add some critical thinking to grammar lessons for students in grades four through six. Have three students come to the board at one time. Call out a word, and tell each of the students to write a sentence on the board using the same word as a different part of speech. For instance, for the word “play,” say, “Jack, use the word “play” as a noun; Bob, use it as a verb; and Sue, you use it as an adjective.” Jack could then write, “I am trying out for a part in the school play.” Bob may write, “I will play football this season,” and Sue could write, “My mom’s old camera has become a play thing for my little brother.” Continue with different words until all students have had a turn at the board.
Play Mad Libs
Students in grades two through six will enjoy playing Mad Libs. Mad Libs is a commercially produced word game where specific words are left out of paragraphs and replaced with a blank. The part of speech of the missing word is written underneath the blank. Players are to replace the missing word with another word from the same category. For instance, a sentence may read “On the way home from (noun), we went through the fast food drive through and ordered (plural noun). Students ask a classmate for a specific part of speech, and fill the blank with the response, without the classmate knowing the context of the story. When all blanks are filled, the story is read aloud. Needless to say, the results are often hilarious. Mad Libs are relatively inexpensive to buy, but if your budget doesn’t allow it, have students write their own paragraphs to use, choosing which words to replace with blanks.
Debbie McCarson is a former English teacher and school business administrator. Her articles have appeared in "School Librarians’ Journal" and "The Encyclopedia of New Jersey." A South Jersey native, she is a regular contributor to "South Jersey MOM" magazine.