No matter how many times I taught grammar rules and parts of speech, my kids never seemed to retain the information. Then I realized I’d been doing it all wrong. Now, instead of taking notes and practicing for hours, we spend five minutes a day singing and dancing, and kids come back years later to sing me the grammar songs they still remember! Here are 14 grammar rules and the songs I use to teach them in my classroom.
Show the relationship between nouns or pronouns and other words in a sentence and often indicate location, direction, or time.
I use this song when I teach sentence expansion—we add prepositional phrases to tell where and when something takes place. I teach this song in two parts so it won’t be overwhelming!
Prepositions: in, on, under, above, beside, before, after, between, among, and through.
Example: After sixth period, I break into my secret stash of chocolate.
Verbs that precede another verb as part of a verb phrase.
A word of warning: Once the kids know this song, they will not stop singing it. No matter how much you beg. They will follow you down the hall and serenade you. Use at your own risk.
Helping verbs: am, is, are, was, were, have, has, had, can, do
Example: I do wish you would stop picking your nose in class.
Used to create a contraction or make a noun possessive.
This one’s not quite as easy to sing as some of the others, but the name MC Grammar makes up for a lot.
Example: Ms. Pangle’s class isn’t in line yet.
Verbs that connect the subject with a predicate noun or adjective.
Another earworm. Catchy and informative!
Linking verbs: am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been
Example: This teacher is exhausted.
There, Their, and They’re
My least favorite homophone.
Yes. Middle schoolers really SHOULD know the difference, but they don’t! I teach this and then replay this song (sometimes repeatedly) when kids keep making the same mistakes. It’s super annoying, so it’s effective motivation to edit their work for this homophone!
Put your binders over there.
Why are their binders in the wrong place?
Oh god, they’re setting the binders on fire.
Commas (In a List)
And yes, the Oxford comma is mandatory.
I’m still looking for a song that will teach all the comma rules. But since this is the rule that’s on my standardized test, it’ll do for now!
Example: Don’t forget you’ll need your binder, your independent reading book, a pencil, and a modicum of common sense for class today.
Put in front of an independent clause to make it a dependent clause.
This is one of my favorites, and I use it every year. It’s super helpful in getting kids to write complex sentences, since it tells them how to use these words both at the beginning and in the middle of a sentence.
Subordinating conjunctions: after, although, because, when, while
Example: After I read the substitute teacher’s email, I decided to take tomorrow off as well.
It depends on how many independent and dependent clauses you use.
Once kids know the subordinating conjunctions, this song helps them figure out different ways to construct sentences using independent and dependent clauses. This one might be a little advanced, but it works toward the end of the year with my sixth graders.
Simple: I like potatoes
Compound: I like potatoes but only in french fry form.
Complex: If you fry the potatoes, I will eat them.
Compound-complex: When your mom delivers McDonald’s to our classroom, I will steal your fries and I will eat them in front of you.
How to avoid fragments and run-ons.
When you try to teach types of sentences and then realize that your students have forgotten how to actually write a complete sentence, this song is a good one to review! I use this when I review with small groups who might be struggling on writing assignments.
Fragment: Because Eduardo ate Anita’s Chapstick.
Run-on: Anita let Eduardo use her strawberry Chapstick, he took a big bite.
Complete sentence: Because Eduardo ate Anita’s Chapstick, he smelled like strawberries all period.
Hint: It depends on what text structure you’re using.
Once my kids move on from basic sentence construction, we start talking about grammar rules for transitioning between paragraphs or ideas. I like how this one breaks it down into different types of transition words and how to use them. Full disclosure: It doesn’t rhyme, so it’s not an easy one to have kids memorize and sing along to.
Transition words: first, next, on the other hand, in contrast, finally, as a result
Example: Due to the aforementioned exhaustion and burnout, we should transition to a five-day weekend schedule.
Active and Passive Voice
Avoid overusing passive voice. Active voice is usually more direct and easier to understand.
Honestly, I pretty much just tell kids you can add “by zombies” to a passive voice sentence. However, if that doesn’t work, this song might!
Passive: The student was tripped while running in the hallway.
Active: I tripped the student who was running in the hallway. Sorry. It won’t happen again.
They’ll never forget where to put the comma again.
This song is perfection. It’s catchy, it teaches the concept, and it comes with choreography. Basically, your work here is done.
Example: The students begged, “Please, can we stop singing this song?”
If your sentence starts with “And that’s why …,” it’s time to chop it out.
Adventures in Writing Camp videos are made by geniuses. Like the previous video, this one includes dance moves and makes the perfect brain break before an intense revising and editing session.
Example: And that’s why in my opinion you should do what I said in this essay.
Do your students edit without reminders? Because mine do not.
One more from our friends at Adventures in Writing Camp—I play this one a few times in class and then just sing it obnoxiously at students when I find them making careless errors in their work. They … love it?