How I Teach Grammar (Painlessly!)

Here’s what happened when I threw out my students’ grammar books…

Click for more information about the following items mentioned in the video:

M.U.G. (Mechanics, Usage, and Grammar) Shots, Semester #1 (four sets available)

Detailed info. about essay grading with grammar codes (Grading Hacks, Episode #2)

Free Sustained Silent Reading (S.S.R.) program materials

Parts of Speech Poster Set

Teach on, everyone!

12 thoughts on “How I Teach Grammar (Painlessly!)

  1. I really love these. Personally, I don’t like teaching grammar to my kids simply because – as you say – they don’t care. Disappointing, really, as I like grammar and am a bit of a grammar nerd, although I have issues with too many commas; but in general, I think I’m pretty good at it. 😉

    So, while my younger crowd will find themselves with new methods of summarized “fun” grammar learning, my older crowd will definitely be using your M.U.G. Shots! It will be interesting to see their reaction to this change! I’ll let ya know when the time comes, but for now I’m all with ya on “teaching grammar painlessly!” 🙂

  2. Absolutely, Carolyn! I’m game to try anything that’ll hook students’ attention and allow me to give them the “medicine” they need. Thanks for watching! 🙂

  3. Thank you for sharing! I’m wondering if you adjust grades after students use the grammar codes to make corrections.

  4. Great question, Mrs. Engelhart! I actually make the essay corrections a separate assignment that I enter into the grade book as homework. That way, I can go back and see exactly how the student performed in terms of content and grammar, and I’ll (hopefully) be able to track their wonderful growth over the year. If I pour the essay correction points right back onto the essay grade, the data is lost. It’s also good for parents to have a clear picture of their child’s writing level/issues. Hope this helps! 🙂

  5. Laura,
    Of the (4), Is there a particular M.U.G. shot you’d start with or doesn’t it matter? I can’t get them all at once, so I wanted a starting point.

  6. Great question, Judy! It doesn’t really matter which one you start with because they’re all at the same level. I made four different volumes so folks could use different packs with their different preps; sometimes, I’ll have an 11th grader that I also taught during his 9th grade year and I need to have different sentences to present. I say, start with #1 and go from there! 🙂

  7. Grace Allen says:


    As I’m catching up on all of your posts, I’m sorry I’m spamming you with a bunch of questions!

    1. I saw an earlier post about how you use the flipped classroom with grammar. Does that go with M.U.G. Shots at all or are they completely separate?

    2. Do you have an easy way to keep up with individual students’ weaknesses?

    3. This is my first year at a new school. When I came in, I was told that I could change any of the curriculum I wanted except the grammar because that was one of the strongest aspects of the English Dept. So, rule-follower that I am, I have spent the year teaching subject complements, types of sentences, verb tenses, etc. in isolation. However, my students have been working on a large research paper, and I continually see that their thoughts are entangled in a mess of grammar and formatting mistakes. I don’t know if this is mainly because of texting, autocorrect (They work on iPads.), or laziness. (It’s most likely a mixture.) Sometimes when I ask them what’s wrong, they are able to tell me after thinking for a few seconds. However, they aren’t editing as they go, which tells me that what they’ve learned isn’t transferring to their writing. I teach middle school (but it’s a private school, so we are using ninth grade textbooks). Do I still need to teach in isolation so that the kids will have the foundation they need for the M.U.G. Shots to make sense?

  8. Quite all right, Grace. I love talkin’ shop! I’ve numbered my answers, just to keep my brain organized on this early Saturday morning. 😉

    1. Yes, I had some great success with flipping the MUG Shots when I was teaching honors classes. Here’s an example to show how that can work for grammar: The kids would watch the video at home on Monday night and complete the task as homework. I’d spot-check their work the next day for three daily HW points and then collect the papers every five weeks for a possible 30 points if all of their edits were correct. In non-honors classes, I’ve had less success with HW completion, so I use MUG Shots as a standard in-class bell ringer for those classes. If you have a population where all students have internet access at home and a school culture that supports homework completion, I love the flipped model.

    2. Yes! There’s a tally grid that my students use to record the occurrence of 10 common writing errors in their major essays/papers. That grid is part of my ebook on grading:

    3. As I mentioned in the video, my only grammar work is weekly MUG Shots and the essay code correction rounds. Then, I’ll remediate individually with Purdue University’s OWL worksheets during in-class SSR time once we’ve identified a particular student’s grammatical ailment. Other than that, I don’t use grammar textbooks and I don’t teach topics like subject complements, types of sentences, etc. Those topics have been covered in previous classes and many kids don’t remember/don’t care about them because that information is somewhat disconnected from our main goal of creating fluid writers. Since my time and resources are limited, I focus on the big wins by using real-world writing examples and explanations that kids can immediately apply to their own writing. As for MUG Shot explanations, kids don’t need to know the a ton of grammar lingo in order to understand the rule/make the fix. As I go over their edits, I’ll explain what a “comma splice” is and I’ll use the phrase “independent clause,” but then I ALWAYS explain in the same breath that “an independent clause is a complete thought, a full sentence that can stand on its own. It’s independent, like you want to be, not reliant on anyone or anything else to be complete.” And then we just keep on rolling. The nature of MUG Shots is that kids will see common errors repeated multiple times in different sentences. By this time of year, they know which clauses are independent and where the dang semi-colon goes.

    Hope this helps! 🙂

  9. Kimberly Mercado says:

    Hello Laura! I teach high school English in Puerto Rico. Our curriculum is basically ELA because students have taken English every year starting from kindergarten. My classes are mixed with students who understand the language, somewhat understand, and then those who have no understanding of the language.

    I’m looking for a new way to teach grammar, and absolutely love the idea of MUG Mondays! But instead of a bell ringer, I’m thinking of using the entire class period to talk about the MUG skill of the day. 10 minutes will not be enough for my students to understand the concept. I

    What are your thoughts on this approach?

  10. Interesting, Kimberly. I like the idea of using a MUG shot as a launchpad to more deeply discuss a specific grammar skill, but a full period of grammar work feels…well…potentially awful. Maybe if you broke the class up into stations for reinforcement or built an escape-room type series of challenges dealing with that grammar rule? Not sure, but maybe this is something your more advanced students could help build and facilitate? Hmm…you definitely have my mental wheels spinning…

  11. Hi, Laura! I love your idea of using these MUG shots to show grammar in action. I started using yours as weekly warm-up activities, and I started to see the students make connections between the weekly exercises now that we’ve gotten through some of them. They are remembering problems we fixed from past exercises and applying them to the new ones. Additionally, when I teach mini-lessons of comma rules, agreement, etc., they are remembering what we talked about from the MUG shots. These exercises have truly helped my students become better at grammar. Thanks so much for the idea and inspiration!! 🙂

  12. Wonderful, Shannon! And thank YOU for sending along this note. You just made my day! It’s gratifying to know the slides I built for my students are working in your classroom, too. Success!

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