The Big Bad Grammar Slammer combines brief tutorials in English grammar and sentence diagramming with a game approach to learning. Parts of speech and syntax are the primary focus, but “Punctuation Pests” scattered through the lessons also address some of the more troublesome punctuation issues we encounter. the sixth module specifically addresses punctuation issues with compound and complex sentences.
Presented in a single book, it has 37 lessons that should take only about ten minutes each. Most lessons are only one or two pages long (in a large size font). Many lessons conclude with an assignment such as writing and diagramming five sentences reflecting the pattern they have just learned, completing diagrams of sentences provided in the book, or replacing nouns with personal pronouns in a book the student has read. Because many of these assignments do not have predetermined answers, there is no answer key. Lesson instruction has a lighthearted, friendly tone that students should appreciate.
Lessons are divided into six modules. Once students complete the first module, they are ready to start playing The Big Bad Grammar Slammer game that reflects concepts taught in that module. Succeeding modules continue to expand upon one another, so the game gradually incorporates all the concepts that have been taught. This makes The Big Bad Grammar Slammer a great tool for practice, review, and reinforcement that can be used for years. Granted, the game is not likely to make it onto your children’s list of favorite party games. Yet it certainly offers a more enjoyable way of practicing grammar than do worksheets.
Recommended for grades 5 through 12, it assumes students have had some previous grammar instruction, although they need not have learned sentence diagramming. Some younger students might not yet be ready to work through all of the modules. While the book starts with subjects and verbs, it works up through very complex sentence structures, including work with verbals, verb tenses (up through future perfect progressive), complex prepositional phrases, direct address, direct quotations, compound sentences, and complex sentences. Since this might be more than younger students need at the moment, you can spread out coverage of the modules and continue playing the game with only the beginning modules as long as is needed.
Playing the game requires the “Clue Card” pages at the back of the book, one dice, and either paper and pencil for each player or a whiteboard with markers. Two or more students can compete against one another, students may play cooperatively, or a single student can follow the instructions for independent play.
“Quizzes” can be given using the same method as for independent play of the game. In all situations, someone (probably a parent or tutor) needs to serve as final judge. Parents with weak grammar backgrounds might think this daunting at first, but as you work through lessons with your children, you will find yourself mastering the nuances of grammar yourself.
You need not repeat extensive grammar lessons every year with students as happens within most traditional programs. Using The Big Bad Grammar Slammer at least for a year or two might provide more effective and enjoyable grammar “instruction” than other approaches.