Choosing an Order of Topics in Grammar Instruction




On social media and TpT, the most frequent question I receive is how I choose the order of topics when I teach grammar.

Truthfully, my sequence of grammar instruction varies a bit from year to year, depending on what students already know. (Check out my grammar diagnostic tests one and two for that.) However, I’ve learned over the past seven years that the order matters more for some topics than others.

If your students don’t label an adverb or adjective when it appears in a sentence, then teaching modifiers is an uphill battle. If students can’t locate a subject, verb, and object to save themselves, then active and passive voice is significantly more challenging. I can’t just teach the Common Core topics for my grade level and ignore other skills, especially if students haven’t maintained the “prerequisite” ones.

In addition to meaningfully sequencing topics in isolation, I also factor in external influences (like when standardized tests will happen) and internal ones (such as strategically teaching parallel structure in close proximity to reading and writing speeches).

SO, here are what I feel are the important grammar mini-sequences, including some options for stringing them together.

Teach in order:
Teach close together (order is debatable):
Teach almost anytime, or when meaningful for your curriculum:
  • Dashes, hyphens, and ellipses: I teach this after the other punctuation marks to not overwhelm anyone.
  • Verb moods: I often teach this near the end of 8th grade.
  • Parallel structure
  • Subject/verb agreement: either teach it whenever it’s an organic problem among students, or possibly near complete sentences.
  • Apostrophes: Some people would teach this alongside pronouns (to discuss possession) or would teach it alongside the other punctuation marks, which is great. I made my unit to stand alone so that I would have the option to teach it sooner if my students needed it badly and couldn’t wait.

So, what might this look like when put together?

Here’s the order I taught to seventh grade last year (the full units, excluding occasional mini lessons on other topics):*
  1. Subject and predicate
  2. Complete sentences vs fragments
  3. Independent and dependent clauses
  4. Semicolons vs. colons
  5. Sentence types
  6. Commas
  7. Parts of speech
  8. Apostrophes
  9. Modifiers

Here’s what I taught to eighth grade (some topics were repeated from seventh on purpose):*
  1. Subject and predicate
  2. Direct and indirect objects
  3. Active and passive voice
  4. Semicolons vs. colons (with emphasis on run-one review)
  5. Sentence types
  6. Parallel structure
  7. Parts of speech
  8. Verbals
  9. Punctuation (dashes, hyphens, ellipses)
  10. Verb moods

*Keep in mind that my order of topics is also influenced by my curriculum’s texts AND when standardized tests occur.

Do you have comments or ideas to share?
Tell me in the comments!

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