Getting to grips with grammar and supporting children with capital letters - 3 top tips for parents and families

We asked Shareen Wilkinson (English adviser and parent) to give some tips for parents on grammar subject knowledge.

With school closures and disrupted learning due to the pandemic, parents and families are increasingly working with their children at home. This blog gives some simple guidance about supporting your child with grammar.

Three top tips for supporting your children

1. Use resources available to support with subject knowledge.

Most parents did not learn grammar at school, so see it as an opportunity to learn from your child/children. Ask them to explain the word classes that they are learning at school (e.g. adjective, adverb, preposition) and use home learning books on grammar to support discussions.

2. Use the correct terminology.

Quite a few terms have now changed, and parents and families should be familiar with them.

Terminology table

Here is a video explaining what an adverbial is for teachers and schools.

3. Make sure you are aware of the basics as a starting point for supporting grammar.

See below some information on capital letters and the key subject knowledge that KS2 (ages 7-11) pupils need to know. Capital letters and full stops are formally taught from year 1 (ages 5-6) onwards.

Here’s a quick review of the main ways that we use capital letters:

  • People’s names – Hardeep Singh, Dad (but not if referring to any mum or dad)
  • Days of the week – Sunday, Monday, Tuesday
  • Months of the year – January, August, November
  • Public holidays – Christmas, Easter
  • Nationalities – British
  • Geographical places – Germany, Jamaica, Denmark
  • Company names – Barclays, Dyson
  • First letter in titles of books, magazines etc – Harry Potter
  • First letter in a line of poetry
  • Personal pronoun ‘I’ used on it’s own.

Source: Grammar and Punctuation by Collins (2009) and the English Programmes of Study

These all seem harmless, but it gets complicated when the context of how the word has been used, determines whether you use a capital letter or not. Let’s have a look at these very common examples:

Do we need capital letters for the words underlined?

1. Today we had Mathematics and English lessons. 

2. During the Summer holidays, we visited sunny Spain. 

In the first example, ‘English’ is a language and nationality. Therefore, it requires a capital letter but general subjects (unless they are a language, e.g. French, German, Spanish etc) do not require a capital letter. So, the subject should be written as ‘mathematics’.

Let’s look at the second example. The country, ‘Spain,’ requires a capital letter but seasons do not need a capital letter, unless they are a name, e.g., of a person or company etc. Therefore, it should be written as ‘summer.’

3. ‘What was that?’ exclaimed Dad.

In this last example, ‘Dad’ is used as a name of a person. If it was any mum or dad, it would not need a capital letter.

Example question taken from a past KS2 sample SATs paper:

Circle all the words in the sentence below that should start with a capital letter.

henry tudor married his first wife, catherine, in june 1509. they married in london.

Answer: Henry Tudor married his first wife, Catherine, in June 1509. They married in London.

Further support:

Rising Stars Achieve Grammar

Shareen Wilkinson is an independent primary English adviser, a director for a multi-academy trust and a KS1 and KS2 moderation manager in London.  She is an established educational author and has co-authored the Achieve Reading books and the Reading Planet KS2 teacher guidance. In addition, she is series editor of the NTS Assessments for reading at KS2 and has worked on the national STA KS1 and KS2 tests for the past decade. This includes being on the teacher panel, expert reviewer and subject expert proofer. Follow Shareen on Twitter at @ShareenAdvice


Achieve, curriculum, English, Expected standard, gps, Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation, Grammar, key stage 2, primary, revision, sats, spelling, year 5, year 6

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