Grammar skills your kids must learn

Want people to take your kids' writing more seriously? Teach these important grammar and punctuation skills!DID YOU know that emus can’t walk backward or that an iguana can stay underwater for nearly 30 minutes?

Did you know that The Battle of Bunker Hill was actually fought at neighboring Breed’s Hill or that the state of Maryland has no natural lakes?

While these bits of trivia are interesting (and fun to learn during studies of science, history, or geography), they don’t need to take up permanent residence in your kids’ brain cells.

On the other hand, certain concepts should be so ingrained in your children’s minds that there’s no way they’ll misuse or forget them—including important rules of writing mechanics. Why? Because better grammar contributes to better writing!

Let’s look at three areas of grammar and punctuation every child must master.

Apostrophes, Possessives, and Plurals

Everywhere I look, it seems, random apostrophes are turning up incorrectly in words meant to be plural, not possessive:

No dog’s allowed
Closed Sunday’s and Monday’s
Wanted: Chef’s and Cook’s
No shoe’s, no shirt, no service

Other times, they’re just misused altogether:

Ladie’s Apparel Sale
Life at it’s best

The correct use of plural and possessive forms may seem like a minor issue. Among educated persons, however, incorrect forms, especially misuses of apostrophes, stand out like red flags. One area executive has said he will not hire an applicant whose letter or résumé includes such an error.” ~Meredith College Grammar Review

Teach your children to use apostrophes correctly. A quick Google search will yield pages of helpful rules, tips, and practice exercises—as well as many humorous examples of apostrophe abuse. Here are a few links to get you started:

Homophones

Homophones are words that are spelled differently but pronounced the same—and confusion among them contributes to all sorts of writing problems. Common sets of homophones such as except/accept, peek/peak/pique, and principal/principle can trip up both kids and adults. Worse, spell-check won’t catch tricky errors because it’s about meaning, not spelling.

While some people may not care whether a Facebook friend types your instead of you’re, it’s definitely a problem when it comes between a student and an “A” paper or a job applicant and the position he’s applying for.

Like apostrophe misuse, homophone mix-ups can cause the writer to seem uneducated or ignorant, so it’s important to begin teaching children when they’re young to distinguish between these confusing words.

Comma Splices, Run-ons, and Fragments

Commas can be tricky. They’re either overused, underused, or just plain misused! One of the worst culprits is the comma splice, in which the writer sticks a comma instead of a period between independent clauses.

I’m tired of all this rain, I wish the sun would come out again.

Run-ons (also called fused sentences) are “comma splices without the commas.”

I ate deep-fried pickles and Twinkies at the fair they were both delicious.

Sentence fragments are also known as incomplete sentences. Fragments are missing a verb, a subject, or both.

On the other hand, leafy green vegetables.
Running all the way to the wall without stopping.

If your children have trouble with comma splices, run-ons, or sentence fragments, follow these links for helpful rules, games, and tips:

It’s All about Practice!

These are among the most important grammar skills kids must learn. Don’t turn a blind eye to your children’s mistakes. They need to hear these rules over and over again, and they need much practice to reinforce proper usage and develop new habits. Why not pick one problem area, such as comma splices or its vs. it’s, and work on it regularly until your child experiences frequent success? You’ll put her one step closer to becoming a more confident writer.

YOUR TURN: Which of these common errors seems to give your child the most trouble?

Copyright 2012 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

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8 comments ↓

#1 David Workman on 11.01.12 at 8:19 am

Fantastic! Sharing this everywhere!

#2 Kim on 11.01.12 at 1:16 pm

Thank you, David. I appreciate it!

#3 Kalen Martyniuk on 02.01.13 at 11:40 pm

Great info! What site did you use to make that jumble of words? It looks so cool!

#4 Kim on 02.04.13 at 9:49 am

Thanks, Kalen! Those word graphics are easy to make and customize at http://www.wordle.net.

#5 Rachel R. on 02.22.13 at 2:04 pm

The one other thing I teach my children along these lines is that if grammar (or spelling) is not their forté, they need to RECOGNIZE that as a weakness and find someone strong in that area to look over their work. (I’m not talking about turning in school assignments, but in life.)

It drives me bananas to see signage with blatant errors, because it is the JOB of the person designing the sign to get it right – either by having it right in the first place, or by having it checked by someone who can correct it.

Of course, anyone can overlook a typo here or there. But when a sign is three words long, you should be able to spell those three words!

#6 Kim on 02.25.13 at 11:40 am

Yes, Rachel! We all need that “someone” to offer an extra set of eyes. It’s so easy to miss things. Explaining to kids that even professional writers have editors can make it easier for them to accept help.

And I’m so with you on the professional signs. Makes me nuts to see those errors, too.

Thanks for stopping by and weighing in!

#7 PK @ Knee Deep In Grace on 03.04.13 at 2:58 pm

Thank you, Kim, for your guidance and generosity! You are such a dear heart and I appreciate you.

Continued Blessings to you and your WriteShop.

Penny

#8 Kim on 03.04.13 at 3:24 pm

Penny, you’re so thoughtful. Your kind, sweet comment made my day!

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