When I was The Teacher in an ELA classroom, one of the things I hated most was the struggle to develop strong writers with their need for grammar instruction. Traditional grammar instruction seems to require the use of worksheets and tasks such as circling the noun and underlining the verb or, even worse, diagramming sentences. Plus, I hated those things when I was a student. So, I knew my students were not going to jump for joy if I used that with them. I settled on mini-lessons as the way to work through grammar instruction teaching my students in snippets without turning them off to writing altogether.
I think the biggest problem with teaching grammar for me was that there were so few resources available at the time. That certainly cannot be said now! Resources are simply a click away for everybody meaning that there is no need for those circling and underlining worksheets when something far more interesting, intriguing, and motivating is right at our fingertips.
One of my favorite resources to share with teachers who are developing student writers is Grammarist. It offers blog-type posts about word usage like this one on the words overtake, take over, and takeover. Included is an explanation, a definition, and examples of usage. Part of the beauty of the examples is that they are real-world, authentic examples from actual publications. The posts would provide perfect mentor texts for students which could serve as a springboard for their own similar creations about local colloquialisms, tricky words or phrases, homophones, idioms, etc.
The Grammar tab offers links to in-depth explanations and definitions of parts of speech and punctuation. The comma link alone could have been bookmarked by my students and referenced every day! There are pertinent examples included within the explanations as well. I use this as a reference tool but I can see where it would be a wonderful teaching tool as well. For example, if I was back in that classroom, I would simply take one piece of the comma page and share it as a mini-lesson to teach the different ways of using commas correctly. One day might be focused on separating items in a series and another day might find us looking at linking clauses. Then, students would be searching through their textbook or outside reading book for examples and finishing the mini-lesson by finding (or writing) examples from their own writing.
The Words and Phrases tab could be a go-to resource on its own. As a teacher, I might ask students to learn more about each category listed in this tab and create a blog post defining, explaining, and providing examples. They might draw their examples from in-class texts, from online text sets, or from sources of their choice.
Check out Grammarist and let me know how you integrated it as a tool or resource in your classroom!