How do English teachers teach grammar and editing in the high school classroom?

The Purpose of Teaching High School Students Grammar and Editing

As I prepare to teach high school English, one of my biggest worries is over grammar and editing. I don’t want my students to get bored of the classic grammar rules they need to know. Also, I really don’t want to read painful papers full of obvious grammar mistakes. I want my students to learn the grammar rules and apply them to their own writing. I want my students to self-edit their papers thoroughly before handing them into me. As a teacher, I am not their personal copyeditor. The question is: how on earth can I help them do this? 1 it's


Many students immediately shut down at the thought of a grammar lesson. They find it boring, hard and simply uninteresting. However, there are many ways to make grammar fun, and also many things teachers need to avoid if they want to keep the classroom engaging!


5 Ways to Improve Teaching High School Grammar

  1. Bring the Students into It
    • Don’t use the book—it’s boring. Find real life examples to draw your students in. Use names of the students in your classroom and popular hang outs they enjoy when creating example sentences. Also, it is also good to point out when students will need to know grammar on their own—like when they write their job resume!
  2. Humor Helps
    • Tell jokes or create a funny story about someone in the school they all know—like the school principal or nurse. If students are laughing, they are engaged!
  3. Teach in Color
    • Labeling parts of sentences can be both annoying and tedious for students. Instead, implement a color-coding system that saves time and breaks the monotony by adding color. (This tip also helps with visual learners.)
  4. Make it a Contest
    • High school students are competitive by nature. Teachers need to take advantage of this when teaching boring topics—like grammar—and create games for students to compete in. Also, every game should have some sort of prize, (like extra credit) to help motivate the students!
  5. Celebrate Successes
    • Since students are learning while having fun, the overall mood and progress in achievements will improve significantly in the classroom! Recognize their achievements—have a reward ceremony at the end of the unit or year, or simply verbally acknowledge and praise students for their hard work.

5 Don’ts for Teaching the Dreaded Grammar Rules

  1. Don’t spend your entire class period lecturing your students.
  • Even students with the best attention spans have a difficult time listening to a twenty-minute lecture. Keep things interesting! Change activities or partners throughout class periods.
  1. Don’t keep their noses in the book.
  • If you want to assign grammar bookwork, assign that for homework. Use classroom time to be interactive and communicative. You want your classroom to be an exciting place, even when grammar is being taught.
  1. Don’t be afraid to drift from your lesson plans.
  • Every once in a while, there are times when it is good to veer of lesson plans, especially when students ask questions that lead to real-life practical applications of grammar. It’s all about that teachable moment!
  1. Don’t fail to offer variety
  • If you want to engage your students, you have to switch things up! Allow your students to use discussion, research and presentations to learn and practice grammar.
  1. Don’t get stuck in a rut.
  • If you teach the same class over and over, it is easy to rely on old lesson plans. However, the best teachers are always learning, trying new things and tailoring lessons to meet the personalities and needs of current students.


High school students often employ the write-the-night-before-and-print method or the one-and done attitude when it comes to editing their papers. They are far too casual and teachers often end up with papers that have not been edited properly. Furthermore, when attempting to peer-edit in the classroom, students are often too nervous to write critical marks on each other’s papers, so the activity quickly becomes superficial and pointless.

Teachers need to give students the tools to be self-reliant in their writing. Students have to learn to self-edit, and the reason they don’t already do so, is often because they don’t know how.

Example of In-Class Procedures for Self and Peer-Editing

  1. Read out loud.
  • On the day a draft is due, have students read their work out loud, first to themselves, and then to a peer. Students are more likely to catch errors, such as omissions, repetitions and unclear passages when reading out loud.
  1. Peer edit shoulder to shoulder.
  • Once students have made improvements to their own papers, using the oral reading strategy, have students pair up to read their drafts aloud. However, do not let the author read aloud, have their peer-editor read it aloud. This gives writers a feel for how other readers will understand their work.
  1. Assign a specific focused editing task.
  • Now, have students do some peer editing for specific errors. For example, ask students to…
  • Circle every punctuation mark that is not a period—to encourage sentence variety.
  • Make a list of every first word of each sentence—to establish variety in word choice in the beginning of sentences.
  • Highlight important vocabulary words or other “bigger” words to ensure correct spelling of tricky words.
  • Eliminate words that could be made more specific (for example, instead of dog, use black Labrador)

For More Information

  • Click here to read a blog about a college composition professor who shares in the struggle of having college students, fresh out of high school, who have no idea how to actually write.
  • Click here for more information on the five tips to improve the process of teaching grammar to high school students.
  • Click here for more information on teaching boring grammar rules.
  • Click here to see Gary Chadwell’s post on the in-class process to help students learn editing and grammar.
  • Click here to see Ann Casano’s blog and to see a checklist for self-editing.
  • Click here for a visual representation of tips for self-editing that you could print off for the classroom.
  • Click here for some different lesson plan ideas in teaching grammar to high school students.
  • Image Source:

Tori Mooibroek is a student of Secondary Education and English at Texas Christian University. She hopes to teach high school English in Fort Worth after completing the 4-1 Education Masters Program here at Texas Christian University.


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