Category Archives: Grammar

Grammar posts

Game Based Learning

This article first appeared in the Irish Independent Written Word Supplement on Monday 26th January, 2015. Pat News

It’s all the rage you know! Turn your learning into a game and suddenly it doesn’t seem so tedious anymore. But how can games help develop your language skills, creativity and imagination?

Board Games

Scrabble is the obvious one, but at the risk of being ex-communicated from the English teaching fraternity, I’ll admit that I don’t like it!

So what do I play instead?

Articulate requires quick thinking, accuracy and to do exactly as the Mad Hatter requests in Alice in Wonderland – “say what you mean and mean what you say!

30 seconds is a fun Irish variation with homegrown prompts. You’ve got that much time to get your partner to guess all five words on the card in your hand!

Absolute Balderdash meanwhile asks you to invent the meaning of words, the plot of movies and obscure bizarrre laws. If you can convince your opponents that your answer is the real one (and the real answers are always a case of the truth being stranger than fiction!) you get the points! This game requires wit, wisdom, absurdity and a vivid, if twisted imagination!

Spoof News

There are some fantastic satirical news sites on the web right now, the best of the Irish ones being waterfordwhispersnews and Spoof news articles also make great gifts for loved ones if you’re feeling cheap and cheeky. Above you can see one I made for my Dad when he retired…

Thesaurus Time

My 6 year old recently discovered a pocket sized thesaurus on our bookshelf.

She thought it was the coolest book ever (there is no saving this child!) and instantly invented a game where she’d read out a word and test myself and her Dad on how many of the other words listed we could come up with!

I am completely rubbish at this game. As soon as she calls out a word (“betray” “neutral”) my brain goes blank. But I can see how practice is improving my instant-synonym-generating skills already. And that’s a skill you definitely need in an exam! Meanwhile, in real life? You’ll probably just consult a thesaurus… although that might be a bit awkward in a job interview!

Grammar Games

I hate those ‘which Friends character are you?’ quizzes which clog up my facebook timeline.

But the one quiz I cannot resist is the ‘How good is your grammar?’ quiz. I recently took the same quiz three times until I got ALL of the grammar questions right. 89% just wasn’t good enough. Google grammar quiz when you really have nothing else to do (or desperately want to tick off ‘study English’ from your to do list) and endless results will come up…


I’m not sure if I should admit this in a public forum, much less advocate it, but when I was in school we’d occasionally sit in the assembly area and over-dub the conversations the teachers were having with each other in the distance.

We were convinced they had no lives outside the school gates so we always imagined they were discussing chronically boring topics like the weather and the traffic or else us, the students.

It wasn’t until I saw this over-dubbing being done on comedy quiz shows like X that I realised we’d been engaging in tried and tested improv techniques.

Try it sometime by muting the sound on the telly and filling in the gaps with a mate.

Don’t try this in the cinema. People will hiss at you.

Don’t try this in school. It got us in some trouble as I recall…

Reverse pictionary

Pictionary works on the principle that you draw something and your team-mate guesses what it is. But we’re here to develop descriptive writing skills, so instead, take a random photo, don’t show it to anyone, then write a detailed factual description of what’s in the photo. Not you ask your friend to draw the photo as accurately as they can from just your written description. The more accurate their drawing (and stick men are perfectly acceptable here!) the more detailed and accurate your description. This really helps you to develop your observational skills when it comes to reading and responding to visual images.


Today the fact that formal grammar isn’t taught in schools anymore became scarily clear to me. Presented with ten sentences, one of my classes had varying degrees of difficulty, from mild to severe, in identifying verbs, nouns and adjectives. And let’s just say it’s a while since they were fresh-cheeked first years 😉

I’m not sure how this could have happened, how 13 years of formal education could fail to produce a knowledge of the parts of speech; nor do I absolve myself of blame. I think perhaps that although we focus on it in detail when students are in first year, beyond that point we presume that the knowledge is there, is fixed and doesn’t need to be constantly revisited, a presumption which of course fails to recognise the all important reality that true knowledge arises from repetition, repetition, repetition until the info becomes hard-wired into the subconscious. So although it may seem ‘basic’ when I finish Romeo & Juliet with my second years to return to punctuation and parts of speech; and bordering on insulting to do the same with my Junior Certs when we’ve finished the masterpiece that is To Kill A Mockingbird; although it seems utterly absurd to go from Wordsworth’s sonnets to verbs and nouns with my fifth years and downright depressing to still be repeating the mantra ad nauseum to a gang of Leaving Certs today taught me what it also is. Necessary. Vital. Urgent.

With this in mind, one of our top performers today, Maeve, just sent me a message on edmodo with this handy little ditty that her mam learnt whilst at school and impressively still remembers – I’d never heard it before but now intend to learn it off myself!

Three little words you often see
are articles a, an and the-e.
The noun is the name of anything
as hoop or garden, school or swing.

Instead of the noun, the pronoun stands,
his head, her coat, your arm, my hand.
The adjective tells us more about the noun
like great, small, pretty, white or brown.

The verb tells something to be done
like read, laugh, count, jump or run.
How things are done the adverb tells
like slowly, quickly, ill or well.

The preposition stands beside the noun
as in or through, after, on.
The conjunction joins two words together
like men and women, wind or weather.

The interjection shows surprise
ahh! How pretty!… Ohh! How wise!
The whole are called 9 parts of speech
which reading, writing and speaking teach.

Spelling be tricky…

Here are a few links to force your brain into thinking about the least fascinating aspect of becoming good at English. Spelling correctly.



Improve your grammar!

I’ve just come across this website which helps you to practice almost every error I come across in students’ writing. It’s particularly useful because it will give you immediate feedback and an explanation if you get something wrong.

Pay particular attention to fused sentences and sentence fragments. These mistakes will cost you dearly so sort it out!Also the classic error with apostrophes is to just leave them out because you’re not sure whether or not to use them, so it’s probably a good idea to sort that out too while you’re at it!

Here’s another site that gets you to play a fun game so you can identify the parts of a sentence:


Vocab game!

Hey all,

Here’s a good game to get the brain fired up, it tests your spelling and knowledge of vocabulary – click here.

Hope the study’s going well. Or at all 😉