Who said grammar was boring?
In the wrong hands, grammar can be like watching paint dry. Mention grammar to some teachers and they will cringe. It can strike fear even in the grammar literate minority. But with the right tools and some heavy-duty firepower, grammar can be fun, meaningful and effective. This is when we turn to the big guns of publishing and look to see what they have in their armoury.
The newest member of Pearson’s Bug Club family is Grammar and Spelling Bug: a top quality, expert-led resource with fun at its heart. It provides learning support that breaks down grammar and spelling into small, logical, cumulative steps of learning – with a treasure trove of engrossing online games and videos to help pupils master the basics.
At the moment the programme contains materials just for Years 5-6, but it will soon include resources for Years 1-2 and 3-4. What’s included? Oodles and oodles of practical help and engaging activities. Each unit contains a diagnostic check, teaching guidance, a video tutorial, a game sequence, and summative assessment. To support your teaching you get a helpful quick-start guide, a simple planning and assessment cycle, a curriculum coverage chart, a text-type planning chart, and a pupil and teacher glossary. You’re in safe hands.
The whole programme has been very well put together and exhales confident, expert thinking and is packaged with style. I sampled a journey through time and immersed myself in the Aztecs, the Tudors and Ancient China by practising the passive voice, noun phrases, indicating degrees of possibility, relative clauses and grammatical knowledge. It was fun simply because of the games environment. The introductory video set the scene well and the games that followed captured my interest because they were lively and challenging, provided instant feedback, and made me want to progress further. Children will love engaging with historical periods in their learning journey and it’s a clever context to further their knowledge and understanding.
The games are designed to stretch able pupils up to Level 6 as well as to support the less able. A grammar guide accompanies each game, which is a nice touch, although I would have liked an audio option for those children less confident in their reading.
A welcome feature at the end of each unit is the opportunity to apply your knowledge within a short piece of independent writing (called ‘mini-writes’). It’s reassuring and emphasises the point that this programme isn’t just about the games.
There are some really helpful diagnostic checks and summative questions (both with answers) but I thought these were quite bland in their presentation, which betrayed the quality of the content. While the intention here is to mimic closely the experience children will have with the SAT, these could still be more child-friendly. The same goes for the pupils’ glossary – far too dry.
Underpinning this games-based programme is a rigorous, easy-to-follow skills progression based on the synthetic phonics approach. With comprehensive teaching sequences for each objective, I’m on board. The ready-made lesson plans mean that you can get stuck in and adapt accordingly. There are details of prior knowledge needed, help with wording to explain concepts, purpose and application sections, and whole-class activities. I like the way the teaching sections have been divided into On Your Marks, Get Ready, Get Set and Go, but I’d like to edit these to suit my own class and add my own ideas as and when.
There are tips on timetabling Grammar Bug into your day as well as how to make links between a text type and the course content, which are helpful – but I’m sure you’ll find your own way with it.
Say goodbye to the black hole of grammatical ignorance with Bug Club Grammar. Use this resource flexibly and with supreme confidence to help you deliver the grammar and spelling requirements of the new primary English curriculum and prepare for the Spelling and Grammar SAT. I think that, despite some minor issues, this is a grammar programme to put your faith in. It is polished, fun and offers considerable teacher support.
If you want to get a flavour of what’s on offer then test the water and try a free unit. It might just make you want to teach grammar, even if this is an Achilles’ heel. Try a sample game online at (pearsonprimary.co.uk/spag).