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gentle grammar

A Gentle Grammar Lesson

  |   Curriculum, Language Arts, Lesson Plan, Teaching Elementary School, Teaching Writing   |   3 Comments

In the first place, grammar, being a study of words and not of things, is by no means attractive to the child, nor should he be hurried into it.

–Charlotte Mason on gentle grammar approach

Most kids would certainly agree! Ha!

Charlotte Mason opposed teaching grammar to children under ten. She felt that children were ready at that age to begin only short, gentle, grammar lessons.

As your child’s parent, you are in the best position to evaluate whether your student is ready for gentle grammar before ten or whether ten is the right age. 

One of mine was crying to learn everything there was to know about writing early, and one wasn’t in a hurry at all, even when it ‘was time.’   

Either way, in the beginning, simple oral lessons of about 10-15 minutes are enough to get started.


So how do I teach a gentle grammar lesson?


Charlotte Mason felt that rather than memorizing the parts of speech, grammar studies should begin with the ‘whole concept’  of a sentence.

Understanding the ‘whole’ first makes it easier to understand the ‘parts.’  So you can see just how easy this method is to use, here is a short reprint of a first grammar lesson from Volume 1 of Charlotte Mason’s Original Home Schooling Series:

Words put together so as to make sense form what is called a sentence.

‘Barley oats chair really good and cherry’ is not a sentence, because it makes no(n)sense.

‘Tom has said his lesson’ is a sentence.

It is a sentence because it tells us something about Tom.

Every sentence speaks of someone or of something, and tells us something about that of which it speaks.

So a sentence has two parts:
(1) The thing we speak of;
(2) What we say about it.

In our sentence we speak of ‘Tom.’

We say about him that he ‘has learned his lesson.’

The thing we speak of is often called the SUBJECT, which just means that which we talk about.

People sometimes say ‘the subject of conversation was so and so,’ which is another way of saying ‘the thing we were speaking about was so and so.’

To be learnt––

Words put together so as to make sense form a sentence.
A sentence has two parts: that which we speak of, and what we say about it.

That which we speak of is the SUBJECT.

Lesson I Exercises

1. Put the first part to these examples:

—has a long mane.
—is broken.
—cannot do his math.
—played for an hour;
etc., etc.

2. Put the second part to—

That poor boy—.
My brother Tyler—.
The broken flowerpot—.
Bread and jelly—.
Mr. Brown’s tool-box—.

Following these exercises, Ms. Mason suggests that your student create new sentences by again replacing the missing parts.

Then she reminds us to remember to call the first part of the sentence – what the sentence is about – the SUBJECT.

After the student has finished creating all of his sentences, he is to go back and draw a line under the part of the sentence that is the subject.

It seems too easy, doesn’t it?

But this method of learning is amazingly effective, especially when you review a new grammar skill for a few days in a row.


Reinforcing the grammar lesson with copywork

Once children heard the lesson, the teacher used short passages of copy work to reinforce the teaching.  The perfect copy work for this lesson would be the “To be Learnt” section above:

Words put together so as to make sense form a sentence.
A sentence has two parts: that which we speak of, and what we say about it.

That which we speak of is the SUBJECT.


Making your own perfect pages for copy work examples

I recommend using Productive Homeschooling to make all of your copy work pages, especially if your student is a new writer or just learning cursive.

Or if you write like me. Which is why I type almost everything.  

Anyway, this program allows you to give your child a perfect example to follow, in the type of handwriting he’s learning.

If you’re going to be homeschooling a while, getting a lifetime membership gives you TONS of already made notebooking pages as well as the opportunity to make quickly make copy work examples for your children.

Create your own homeschool printables with the ProSchool Publisher


How to continue the lesson

Each child keeps a list of grammar rules in his notebook.  Each time he learns a new grammar rule, he records it as copywork and adds it to the notebook.

Not surprisingly, Ms. Mason advocated that the teacher should choose copy work from the Bible as well as other living books.  In our Daily Lesson Plans, we choose copywork from our history and science selections, as well as from the Bible.

Doing this allows the copywork to serve multiple functions. For example, in addition to grammar study,  you can use copy work for handwriting and spelling practice, for memorization, and to review history and science concepts.

Think of the time you’re saving here. Anytime you can get all this benefit from one activity, it’s a very good thing!


Back to our grammar lesson…

So for the next day’s practice on this grammar concept, use a history or science book to generate some sentence parts, and let your student copy and add the subjects and predicates, as she did before.

Continue to have her underline that part of the sentence that says what the sentence is about, and reinforce what that part of the sentence is called — the subject.

So what do you do to teach grammar? How is it working?

If you think this would be an easier and more engaging way to learn grammar for your student you might want to give the Charlotte Mason method a try for teaching grammar. And history. And science.  😊

Have you used this method of teaching grammar before? How do you like it? If you haven’t used it, how do you feel your kids might respond to this way of teaching grammar? Tell me in the comments!

teach gentle grammar - dana



P.S. Coming up — I’ll post a week of grammar lessons using this method.

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  • 15 Language Art Lessons Using Living Books | Train up a Child Publishing Blog | Aug 20, 2014 at 2:08 am

    […] the original complete sentences in print with your student, and after a short verbal lesson (an example of this lesson is here)  on  subjects/predicates, have your child tell which part is missing and create an appropriate […]

  • Rachel Johnson | Mar 21, 2012 at 2:08 am

    Thanks for sharing this…it is encouraging! 🙂

    • Dana | Jul 5, 2019 at 5:04 pm

      So glad to hear this way of teaching grammar is encouraging to you, Rachel. Sometimes the simplest way of presenting something is the best!

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