Grammar Easy When Presented in Sequence

There’s an easier way than diagramming.

Too many young people complete 12 years of school confused about English grammar.

The fault is not theirs.

The fault is ineffective grammar teaching. Too many concepts are presented at one time with insufficient practice and reinforcement.

Part of the problem is the practice of having a new grammar textbook for every grade. Students acquire the idea that there’s no end to what’s to be learned. A better practice would be to have one basic text that can be used by students at every grade level until the material in it has been mastered.

The Key to Mastery

All children can master basic grammar if it is presented in an easy-to-grasp order, and if plenty of practice is provided.

Formal grammar is best taught in increments.

It’s not necessary, for example, to teach everything about nouns all at once. Terms like singularpluralpossessive, and collective can wait until the child can identify a noun. Likewise terms like tense, agreement, participle and transitive can be introduced after the child can pick out the verb in a sentence with confidence.

An understanding of grammar results from learning the parts of speech and the parts of the sentence.

The Sequence for teaching the Parts of Speech


There are eight traditional parts of speech: noun, verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun, conjunction, interjection, and preposition.

The first terms to teach are noun and verb. First graders can easily learn the concept of “naming words” and “doing words.”

Give children plenty of practice with nouns and verbs before going on to another part of speech.

NOTE: As the children master the parts of speech, introduce them to the parts of the sentence. As they learn to identify nouns and verbs, they can learn to analyze sentences into their two main parts: Subject and Predicate.

analyze v. “divide the sentence into its parts” (The noun is analysis.)

Once the child has mastered the concept of noun and verb, introduce the adjective. This is the time to introduce the definite and indefinite articles. Nowadays the fashion is to call these words “determiners,” but teach the traditional terms. Children will need to know them when they come to the study of a foreign language.

As the adjective is introduced, the child learns that the Subject of a sentence may contain words in addition to the noun. Now is the time to introduce the terms simple subject and complete subject.

When the child understands the function of the adjective, introduce the adverb.

By now the child is ready to be introduced to parsing.

parse: v. “identify each word in a sentence according to its part of speech” (The noun is parsing.)

After the adverb, introduce the pronoun. Teach only the subject forms of the personal pronouns to begin with: I, you, she, he, it, we, you, and they. The object forms can wait until you are ready to introduce prepositions.

After the personal pronouns, introduce conjunctions. Tell the child that there are many kinds of conjunction, but that you’ll begin with the most common: and and or. More information about conjunctions is not needed at this point.

Only two parts of speech remain to be introduced: interjection and preposition.

The interjection is an easy concept to grasp. It takes very little explanation.

The preposition is best presented last. In introducing the preposition, the teacher must introduce the concept of the phrase because prepositions function only as part of a phrase. Now is the time to introduce the object forms of the personal pronouns: me, you, him, her, it, us, you, and them.

Many children have difficulty in grasping the function of the preposition. Lots of examples and plenty of practice are needed to establish mastery. Until the student has mastered these concepts, it is counterproductive to introduce more advanced information about the parts of speech and the parts of the sentence.

Parents can start monitoring grammar learning as early as first grade.


The Parts of Speech

How to Parse a Sentence

How to Analyze a Sentence






4 Responses

  1. Toni,
    “Is there a sequential chart done by grade level for the grammar concepts that should be presented at each grade level?”

    The Common Core standards mention grammar at different grade levels, beginning with Kindergarten.

    I prefer to think in terms of mastery rather than grade level. Beginning readers can master the concept of nouns and verbs pretty quickly.
    From there they can proceed to adjectives and adverbs and then to the rest of the parts of speech. By fifth or sixth grade they can be analyzing and parsing sentences that contain all the parts of speech and prepositional phrases. By the time they complete eighth grade, they should be able to handle sentences that contain clauses.

    Because each school, teacher, and group of children is different, strict adherence to grade level criteria is not recommended. Mastery should be the ruling consideration. By giving diagnostic tests at the beginning of the year, teachers can determine where to begin with a given group of students.

  2. Is there a sequential chart done by grade level for the grammar concepts that should be presented at each grade level

  3. Perhaps I am old fashioned, but I still love the Reed/Kellogg diagram method. I can think of no better way to deconstruct a sentence and arrive at its precise meaning, and by the reverse process, construct a sentence that I know will communicate what I intend to communicate.

    But I am in absolute agreement that most grammar instruction covers too much too soon, as if the language should be taught in one year. Furthermore, grammar might better be taught by having students deconstruct great writing; copy, if you will, the great writers and discover how they used the language. Only then go on to create something original using the principles they have encountered with the study of the great writers.

  4. Some of those who were confused by grammar lessons in school end up teaching grammar where they face different levels of confusion, intimidation, and lack of confidence. On top of that, many have been exposed to simplifications of Stephen Krashen’s work during teacher training courses and end up rejecting grammar instruction altogether as if that would be theoretically justified. Language is complex, but we should give learners more credit for making sense of this system if, as you suggest, they are given consistent, systematic exposure to show how its various parts work. BTW, I prefer classifying articles as a sub-category of determiners. I’ve seen too many textbooks refer to them as adjectives.

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