More Than Mad Libs: Parts of Speech Made Fun

Whenever I tell anyone that I am working on a unit about parts of speech, I am met with groans and choruses of, “Ugh.  That has to be so boring.  Learning about nouns and verbs and all those other things?  I bet you can’t wait to actually get to something fun.  Good luck with the kids on that one.”  Every time someone reacted negatively toward parts of speech or the idea of teaching it, it sounded akin to medieval torture.

Why did it have to be that way?

Why did teaching parts of speech or learning about them have to be so painful?  When I had to start planning for teaching parts of speech, I approached it with the goal of having fun and getting the students interested and active.  If students could find something interesting about parts of speech, then learning parts of speech would not only be fun, but it would help them to learn parts of speech better.

So, I decided that each lesson would have a fun student-centered activity.  I used group work, individual work, collaboration, competition, and creativity to really get students interested.  I will probably post the exact lesson plans under the “Teaching Materials” tab, but here is a brief look at what I did for the unit:

Nouns – After a quick survey to see how comfortable they felt with parts of speech, I introduced nouns and tested them by having them go through the lyrics of “What Does the Fox Say?” and circle all nouns in the song.

Pronouns – Using construction paper rectangles with the pronouns on them, create a chart of all the pronouns.  Then take sentences and have students work together to scratch out repeated nouns on their papers.  After they complete it together, a representative from each group takes the pronoun cutouts from our chart and places them over the nouns they want to replace as a physical reminder that pronouns replace nouns.

Prepositions – I brought in a Snoopy plushie and selected a student to place it anywhere he or she wanted in the classroom.  Once Snoopy was in place, I gave students 1-2 minutes to give me as many prepositional phrases as they could about where Snoopy was (or how long he had been there).  I made it a challenge between the two classes to see which class could name more and the winning class became the “Preposition Champs.”  (Both classes actually scored 18 prepositional phrases, so they both became champions).

Adjectives – After reviewing what kinds of adjectives exist, students get in groups and each choose a noun.  (I used Dragon, Superhero, Cat, Villain, Boat, House, Wizard, and Book).  To get them up and moving, the groups then go to a piece of poster paper around the room.  They write the noun they have at the top of their paper then have two minutes to list as many adjectives as they can that describe the noun they were given.  Groups then rotate to the right and have two minutes to draw an image of the noun using the adjectives the last team left.  Groups then share their drawings and provide a sentence about their image using the adjectives on their paper.

After these lessons, the students are taking a quiz, so that ends the first part of their parts of speech unit.  I have been using sentences from The Hunger Games every day to practice identifying parts of speech as well.  A parts of speech unit is not as exciting as a unit about literature or creative writing.  However, it is important that students understand a basic component of how our language functions and how words work in sentences.

Stay tuned for an update on verbs, adverbs, conjunctions, and interjections!

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