Strategies for Teaching Grammar to Adults

Posted by on June 23rd, 2016

In many cases the amount of exposure, or lack thereof, to a specific concept directly impacts a student’s instructional experience. Particularly in cases where an adult has not been exposed to correct speaking throughout life, challenges arise for instructors teaching grammar.

Adults who have not been exposed to correct speaking may not immediately notice errors in speech when listening to someone or reading a passage. Also, learners may relegate the use of proper grammar to a certain context rather than extending the rules across life.


Other challenges include the rise of digital shorthand and slang. The use of abbreviated and purposefully misspelled words commonly seen in texts, instant messages and other social media begins to appear in speech and formal writing. As a result, instructors are required to deliver lessons that mitigate these challenges and resonate with learners.


The more engaged students are with learning material, the higher their retention rates. A number of strategies exist to help make grammar instruction interactive and engaging for adult learners:



Utilize various conversation scenarios to allow students to practice their grammar usage skills. The “Conversations” activities are especially beneficial to English as Second Language (ESL) learners.

  • Telling a Story
  • Dining Out
  • Small Talk
  • Friends & Family
  • Business Discussions


Game Based Learning

Game based learning allows students to participate in playing games while mastering concepts. Effective examples include:

  • Word Puzzles – Crosswords, word searches and other word puzzles can be used to teach grammatical concepts such as synonyms, tenses and conjugation.
  • BINGO – In grammar lessons the students can use newspapers and magazines to find examples of the various parts of speech to cover the various spaces on their cards.


Hidden Common Mistakes

Spend time speaking with students about common grammatical mistakes. Point out how subtle errors can change the meaning of a sentence.


Other Strategies for Consideration

  • Treat learners as the adults they are. Build upon prior knowledge and experiences where possible.
  • Be creative and efficient with your lessons and activities.
  • Consider any potential technology gaps, especially for older adults.
  • Use both implicit and explicit instructional approaches.


In addition to the strategies, websites are also available to enhance student learning. Websites for interactive grammar practice are:

Capital Community College

Shares a list of interactive quizzes focused on grammar and writing.


English Media Lab

Delivers business and survival listening activities for adult learners.


Grammar Bytes

Provides interactive practice activities with the ability to “check my work” to see correct answers.



Offers writing, grammar and vocabulary activities.


While several challenges exist for teaching grammar to adults with little exposure, there are many ways to overcome the obstacles and ensure that learners are receiving solid instruction. Through the use of interactive, fun and engaging lessons, teachers are able to reach students at various levels of learning. From interactive websites to fun classroom activities, effective instruction is no longer confined to monotonous lectures. Instead teachers are able to deliver instruction that has relevance for the listeners and provides an opportunity for learning to move from one-way delivery to a dialogue between teachers and students.



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