How Do You Prepare For NAPLAN? Part 2 -Language Conventions

Punctuation Saves Lives

Punctuation Saves Lives!  From Punctuation Mark by Belinda Ellis

The Language Conventions test is probably the hardest to learn without direct instruction.  Direct instruction does not have to come from worksheets. Children can learn far more from fluid conversations and discussion with modelling of concepts.  The mechanics of language are learned overtime and there is a tendency to push this earlier and earlier. All this knowledge will come with time, practice and experience.  These conventions are not in oral language and so have to be consciously learned.  Rote learning will not concrete any concepts. It is only in the concrete that children can then adapt and process this knowledge to use it further.

Here are 10 fun activities and links to increase your awareness of grammar and punctuation. 

1.Read widely – write freely – Correcting every mistake a child makes will only change their thought pattern on writing to one of negativity and hard work.  Correct spelling and grammar is the end goal. Click here for a great article from Cult of Pedagogy –  Why is my kid allowed to make mistakes?

2. Discuss grammar and punctuation – When reading look at the punctuation and discuss.  Good teachers read to their class and break down sentences to show why the punctuation is there.  They will also model writing on the board to show how and why punctuation is used.   Discussions like these aid understanding far more than worksheet use.

3.Read about punctuation  – Punctuation Mark by Belinda Ellis is an excellent introduction for kids to show them the power of punctuation in a funny story. It also has a great glossary to brush up on what punctuation is actually for. Click on the link for a great scholastic resource sheet for this book.

There is also punctuation celebration that uses simple rhymes to illustrate the use of punctuation.

punctuation celebration

4. Play story repair or fill it in  – rules on the scholastic blog – click image!

how to love grammar blog scholastic

5. Use speech bubbles and add dialogue to pictures cut out of magazines to write exclamatory sentences!

6. Play Wham! A fun game about exclamatory sentences and other sentence types. Click image for link.

wham exclamation game7. Play Madlibs.  “The world’s greatest game” according to their website.  They are addictive and very funny, especially played with another person or a group.  If you have never played they are a fill in the blanks word game where one player prompts others for a list of words to substitute for blanks in a story, before reading the short story.  As a consequence of not seeing the story before filling in the blanks the stories normally end up funny, outlandish and ridiculous.  Just perfect for Grade 2-3 and above.

8.  Revise Grammar use yourself. If in doubt about the subjunctive, read Rediscover Grammar by David Crystal.  This book is an amazing resource for everybody.  It even has lots of humour to keep you going through the tough parts! It is an easy read reference book of all grammar and punctuation terms.

rediscover grammar david crystal

9. Play the games in How To Increase Your Child’s Verbal Intelligence by Carmen and Geoffrey Mc Guinness. This is a book full of language games. We play these games all the time.  They are great for long car journeys too.  They are quick to make and full of fun to play.

how to increase your child's verbal intelligence

10. Articles of interest about how not and how to teach grammar from The Atlantic.


Reading and spelling are inextricably linked and need to be taught together.  Spelling is one those things that is just not taught well.  Taking some misspelt words from writing the week before won’t cut it as a spelling list and neither will a list of words that come from any of the high frequency word lists.  Spelling is a tricky beast and some are blessed with good spelling while others aren’t.  To truly teach spelling children need to be involved in understanding how the alphabet system works and how 44 sounds and 26 letters form all of our words.

Spelling takes time and for most who are not excellent spellers – practice!  A spelling list needs to follow patterns.  For example, it is easier for children to understand and comprehend a list of words that all have the same sound e.g. same, stay, afraid and great all have the /ae/ sound.  Playing with sounds and discussing how the sound system makes up words is far more beneficial than just sending random words home with no meaning.

Here are 6 activities that are fun, quick to prep and will positively influence spelling.

1.Best practice is to always use similar sounds and patterns in lists to aid meaning and comprehension.  If that is not possible, why not group your words into similar sounds and learn group by group?  If your child really does struggle, chat with your teacher about modifying the list to include one pattern only.  Click here for the Sounds Write Lexicon.  It is an amazing resource for teachers and parents.

2.Use magnetic letters, tiles or cut up words to rearrange spelling words. This is a good strategy to use as children have to manipulate the letters to build the word again.  A multisensory approach to spelling positively helps all children.  Make sure that words are put into sound groups eg cat would be  /c a t/  3  sounds.  say on the other hand is just 2 sounds /s ay/

3. Add as many spelling words to the same sentence and make up silly short stories.

4.  Make up short sentences with spelling words and then cut out individual words or use magnetic words and rearrange to remake the sentences.

5. Use spelling words to play games like bingo and matching pairs and then put words into groups of alphabetical order or number of sounds to reinforce pattern.

6. Post it note words all over the house e.g  p ie   t r ie d  and f l ie s.  Ask your child to retrieve words and make lists of words in patterns.  Words could then be played with e.g. matching pairs, snap, bingo or words could be added to sentences or story.

We have to change our view of education to one of the long game.  Education is a journey and not a destination- That was Mary Harris- Jones not me!

Happy learning xx

This post is part of a series about NAPLAN.  Check out the other posts here.

NAPLAN jingle

How Do You Prepare For NAPLAN? Part 1 – Reading

How Do you prepare for NAPLAN?

How Do You Prepare For NAPLAN? Part 3 – Writing

Naplan - Maths

How Do You Prepare For NAPLAN? Part 4 – Maths


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