How to help your pupils work on their grammar, punctuation and spelling at home

As schools have now closed due to Coronavirus, Madeleine Barnes shares her top tips on how teachers can continue to help their pupils work on their grammar, punctuation and spelling at home.

There have been many changes in the development and assessment of Key Stage 2 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling in recent years. Some of these changes include:

  • Greater emphasis on spelling

  • More variety of question type – including a wider range of questions where children need to reason and explain their understanding of grammar

  • A very precise mark scheme that illustrates the importance of applying their understanding of grammar to a context

Here are some top tips to support year 6 children’s learning of grammar, punctuation and spelling ready for progression to year 7.

  1. Understanding grammatical terminology: There is a huge difference between identifying and understanding. Many children can identify a pronoun (within a sentence) but cannot explain what the function of a pronoun is. Equally some children struggle with words that can function as different word classes. For example if a child learns that ‘kitchen’ is a noun since it is a place, they will struggle when asked to identify the grammatical term of the word ‘kitchen’ when faced with a context of, ‘Mum said to put the cake on the kitchen table.’ A child who can reason within grammar and recognise that in that context the word ‘kitchen’ is functioning as an adjective as it is describing the table fully understands the function of words. However, many children rely on definitions that sometimes do not allow the children to reason. If a child has learned that a noun is something that we can touch, how will they recognise that ‘love’ is a noun in this context, ‘She gave him so much love.’ Here are some ideas to encourage reasoning:

  • Give children a Venn diagram (with two circles) and label each criteria Nouns and Verbs. Give children a selection of words from all word classes and ask them to sort them into the Venn – nouns in the nouns criteria, verbs in the verb criteria and words that can function as a noun and verb (walk, can, run, mess etc) will be in the middle. Any other word classes such as conjunctions, pronouns, determiners will be written around the outside. This activity promotes reasoning about how a word functions and the verbs which are sorted into the ‘verbs’ section are usually being verbs which cause children difficulties such as am, were, has, have, had etc…

  • When revising word classes, ask children to write a sentence using a specific word class. For example ‘write a sentence using ‘point’ as a noun’. This will encourage children to reason about language.

  • Create a scenario of a ‘Job Centre’ for the different word classes and challenge children to write a ‘Job Description’ for a conjunction. Model that they will need to explain what a conjunction does and does not do. This can also be repeated for ‘Punctuation’ too. I have had great success doing this verbally where children act in role as a question mark for example and explain what they can do!

  1. It’s good to talk: Many children struggle with grammar, punctuation and spelling because they do not have a bank of vocabulary to draw upon. With so much to cover in the curriculum, it is sometimes difficult to make time simply to talk. However, the complexities of the English language demands that we talk about language. An example of this is asking children to write a sentence using the word ‘course/coarse’ (as a verbal instruction, children will not know which spelling we mean). So, we can expect the following:

  • My mum booked a course of yoga.’

  • ‘We love going to the golf course.’

  • ‘Of course, you can go to the toilet.’

  • ‘I hope we have a two-course dinner this evening.’

  • ‘My Grandad says horses for courses!’

  • ‘The carpet in the library is coarse.’

In these sentences, ‘course/coarse’ all have different meanings and in some the word is functioning as a different word class. We do not have to explain each word class to the children, but we do need to discuss the different meanings of the word ‘course/coarse.’

  1. Homophones and near homophones: As an extension of the point above, it is important that children know what homophones mean. I have worked with many children who articulate a lack of understanding for example, ‘I know there are two ways to spell stationary/ery but I only know that one means pens and pencils.’ Create a game by getting A4 card and folding it in half. On each side write a homophone for example ‘serial/cereal’ and display them. In pairs, hold up a card and ask children to write a sentence using one of the homophones ‘serial/cereal’. Explain that if they match the word you were thinking of they get the point, if not the teacher or parent/carer, if home schooling, gains the points. Ask children to share their sentences and discuss if the correct spelling has been used in the correct context – some children may write ‘breakfast serial’. Monitor which word has been used the least and display that as the one you were looking for! Use the appendix from the National Curriculum for extensive lists of homophones to play this game.

Understanding language and grammar really is the key to success.
Learn more about our Achieve Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation SATs Revision resources and order online here.
Madeleine Barnes is an experienced primary school teacher and senior leader who is currently a full-time English Advisor. She offers bespoke training to support schools locally, nationally and internationally. Madeleine still regularly teaches in the classroom and includes live-teaching sessions in most of her training. Madeleine is an established educational author, writer, blogger and series editor for a range of educational publishers (including our Achieve Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation SATs Revision series). She is a DfE QA proofer for grammar and reading.



Achieve, engagement, English and Literacy, English and Writing, gps, Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation, Grammar, homework, learning, Parents, Punctuation, revision, school, spelling, teacher, Teaching, vocabulary

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