In Montessori, we have many different kinds of activities to teach the parts of speech. Some may be a bit of a surprise – who would think that a farm play set could be used to teach grammar? I love the idea of kids using familiar objects and animals to learn more about language.
Here are a few of the common grammar materials:
The Farm Game
This activity, like the one seen here from Alison’s Montessori, is common in the 3-6 classroom. It usually consists of a wooden farm set, including a barn and miniature farm animals. In addition, the child is provided with small cards that have different nouns, verbs, adjectives, and other parts of speech that might be used on the farm.
A very young child might simply play with the set with a friend, using language skills to identify the animals and their movements. They might use individual labels for the nouns (“sheep”, “goat”). An older child might make longer sentences using more parts of speech, like “The goat jumped over the red fence”.
While the traditional wooden farm set is lovely, it’s also a bit pricey. I’ve heard of people who have found less expensive plastic sets (some are still very nice). I personally bought a feltboard farm set and used that and it worked beautifully.
Nomenclature cards and charts can be used to familiarize the child with the symbols and definitions. The child can be asked to give an example of each part of speech, or write a sentence using several of the parts of speech together. You may want to hang a grammar symbol chart on the wall of the language area for reference purposes.
Here, the children take the symbols and apply them to real sentences. Sentence cards or strips are prepared or bought by the teacher and the child is given a box or container of symbols that are printed on paper or cut out of wood. The child looks at each word in the sentence and decides what part of speech it is. They then place the appropriate symbol above the word.
A reversal of this exercise is to give the child prepared strips with symbols in various orders. The child then thinks of words to make a sentence that fits the pattern.
I’ll be honest with you. I’m not a big fan of the wooden grammar boxes. They are expensive, and to my mind, not essential for grammar studies. The ones from Nienhuis don’t list the words in the correct order for English grammar. I called Nienhuis once to ask why some of the boxes have such strange word order, and they were unable to tell me. If anyone knows, please share!
I feel that great results can be achieved by using the grammar cards alone, as mentioned below. If you do have the grammar boxes, you would use the grammar cards with them to form sentences. The Grammar Boxes offered by Alison’s Montessori (linked to above) have movable labels for the parts of speech, so that you can change the order as needed. Those make more sense to me than the kind with fixed (painted) labels from Nienhuis.
For this activity you will need cards with words on them for each part of speech. The child sets them out to create sentences. For instance, they may set out cards (one for each word) that say: A book is on the table. They’ve used an article, noun, verb, preposition, article, and noun.
Then, they could take various adjective cards (“blue”, “smooth”) and try them out in front of the nouns in the sentence. By switching out adjectives, nouns, verbs, and prepositions, the variations are endless.
Reading (or Sentence) Analysis
In Reading Analysis Set 1, the child is introduced to the words and phrases that make up sentences. The first lesson involves only the subject, verb, and direct object. The patterns become more complex, with those parts in different combinations (two subjects with one direct object, or two direct objects with one subject).
Then, the child is shown a larger and more complex chart, Reading Analysis Set 2, that includes all the different types of subjects and predicates, answering questions like “why?”, “when?”, “from what?”, and “with whom?”.
You guessed it…
The one thing all of these materials have in common, like all Montessori materials, is that they are hands-on. Children are matching, moving, and manipulating words and symbols to create patterns and sentences. This kind of tactile work helps solidify the parts of speech in a very special way.