Nouns and Verbs are my favorite lessons to teach to early elementary students. They are fun, interactive lessons that stick with students. Part of the fun for me as a teacher is seeing the aha! moment that comes with pairing a symbolic word with its meaning.
Words like Nouns and Verbs are intangible, foreign words. Though many students successfully memorize their definitions and complete assignments through early grammar lessons, I’ve found that all of my students had to relearn these concepts around 3rd grade. They needed to grasp more than a definition and just were not developmentally ready before that point. Because of this, I have since refrained from teaching grammar before age 8. Instead, we just read and enjoy reading. When the grammar lessons begin, this is always a favorite.
Even if you use a formal grammar program (my favorite is Rod and Staff’s Beginning Wisely book 3), I recommend taking a few days to have fun with nouns and verbs.
Begin with a snuggle on the couch. Play a game of I-Spy. Say, “Did you know there is a fancy grammar word for all of the items we spotted in our game? That word is NOUN. Those things are all nouns.” Introduce the definition for ‘noun’ that you want to use with your student. Continue to use that definition consistently. We say: A noun is a person, place, thing, or idea. I introduce it, have my student repeat it after me, and then have her say it with me. Go over this until your student is able to say it comfortably.
Next, give your student a paper sack and ask him to fill it with nouns. This is especially fun if the weather is favorable to outdoor exploring. Give them ten minutes to find nouns to put in the bag and then go over the contents together.
Begin this with a snuggle on the couch. Say, “I love to hug you. Can you see a hug? What kind of word do you suppose hug is? Hug is a word that you do. Can you think of some other words that show action?” Go over the definition for ‘verb’ that you want to use with your student. We say: A verb is a word that does an action. I like the definition shared in First Language Lessons.
Next, give your student a paper sack and ask him to fill it with verbs. Obviously, this is not going to be possible. Discuss why this doesn’t work. “A verb is an action, not an object. Let’s see if you can show me some verbs.” Encourage him to demonstrate some verbs while you guess what they are. Jump, sit, laugh, whisper. See if he can guess verbs while you act them out. You might need to write verbs out on slips of paper to get the game going.
Help keep the two lessons separated with extra practice. This nouns and verbs worksheet has students cut out the words and paste them in the appropriate box. You can do the same thing with index cards and columns taped on the floor.
The harder nouns
This is a foundation lesson for noun and verbs. Nouns and Verbs lessons will continue to develop to get more complicated. If your student is ready to discuss the “idea” aspect of nouns, you might help them by describing them as invisible nouns. You can’t hold them in your paper sack, but you can hold them in your head and in your heart. Feelings and Thoughts are nouns. Examine the sentence, “I think a thought.” Is think a noun or a verb? Is thought a noun or a verb? Can you see a thought? No, but you can still own it and hold it in your head. This might be too much to introduce at the beginning for some students.
Remember, keep it simple and keep them involved. Worksheets have their place, but students learn best when they are interacting with the lesson and with you.
What are your best tips for having fun teaching Nouns and Verbs to your kids?