UKEdMag: Making the SPaG Test a Little More Fun by @ICTMagic

-Extract from the April 2014 Edition of UKEdMagazine. Article written by Martin Burrett.

Like many 30-somethings who passed through primary school in the 1980s, lessons on grammar were noticeable missing from my early education. Tense was something you felt before tucking in to the school dinner meat loaf and the only clause I knew about was the one that visited at Christmas. My first real introduction to grammar was through secondary MFL lessons.

Things have changed a great deal in the intervening years, and now grammar, along with spelling and punctuation, is taking centre stage in the form of the Key Stage Two SPaG test.

[pullquote]While spelling and punctuation are also important, I will be focusing on making grammar more engaging[/pullquote]I think that giving these three areas need ‘some’ prominence along with treasuring the creative, imaginative magic that flows through children’s writing, but this new obsession with grammar and the creation of the SPaG test for primary children is something altogether different. To bring some fun and, dare I say it, enjoyment into the grammar learning process I have drawn upon the EAL skills and games I used while teaching English to non-native speakers and some of my techie enthusiasm. This is for my own sanity as much as the children’s. While spelling and punctuation are also important, I will be focusing on making grammar more engaging:


As most primary school teachers will tell you, children learn better when participating in games. The first activity I would like to introduce I like to call ‘smuggler’. This can be played as a whole class, but there are better levels of pupil participation if it is played in small groups. The children are given some grammatically incorrect phrases. One child must talk on a topic and smuggle as many mistakes past the other members of the group to gain points, while the ‘listeners’ must spot them. Any false-positives give an additional point to the smuggler. I have also tried this with short passages of prepared text where I try to smuggle mistakes past the class, but it is much more fun when the children are involved.

Toss the Hoop

… or your soft object of choice. Set up 4 coloured cones or areas to throw into and assign a word class to each cone/area. For each ‘hit’ the children are given a word from a pile of, verbs, nouns, adjectives or adverbs, depending on the colour. The team then must build a sentence with those words and they can add other words on a limited number of whiteboards. The trick is to keep the words fresh so the children are constantly making new patterns. A twist on this is to write words on Jenga pieces (covered first in idea paint if you can) and see how tall your children can make a single width sentence tower before it falls over.

Online Quizzes

zondleThere are lots of sites you could use and many different ways you could administer these. I’ve used, and to make self marking grammatical quizzes online. But the site that has really stood out for me has been Zondle. This site allows you to write a set of questions, but the children are able to answer those questions through more than fifty games. Each child has their own login in. It a wonderful resource for making multiple choice assessment test. Because it is online, the children can use Zondle on any device with a web connection, whether at home or at school. I’ve used it to create cloze text sentences, ‘spot the odd one out’ questions, and questions to identify word classes. See one bank of questions I have made by clicking here.

Word Folds

This is a twist on the ‘draw a head, body, legs’ game. Write around eight to twelve different world classes, such as noun or verb, down the right side on the page, one for each fold. Setting up the sheet can take a little practice if you want to make a reasonably workable sentence and it is a good idea to have a sentence in your head when you are choosing the order. Then the children write a word from a particular word class without peeping. You may wish to add you own lexical words, such as pronouns. This should generate a (hopefully funny) sentence. But they are often not grammatically correct and the children must then correct them.

Scribbling sentences

I saw an arty meme where people were scribbling words out in books to make scribble poetry (see March issue) and you can do the same for making sentences for grammar practice. Simply scribble out the words that you don’t want to leave the words you do. To do this successfully takes a keen eye and careful reading of the text. Not only will the children practice for the SPaG test, but you will also have some great art work to display.

Bobbing/fishing for Words

Another way to randomise the words for a sentence is to bob for words, like you might bob for apples. I have found that this works well with small cake cases, as they float and …


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About UKEdChat Editorial 3187 Articles
The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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