Grammar can put middle school students (and really anyone) to sleep! When teaching grammar to middle schoolers, it must be presented in a fun and memorable way. Our philosophy is to teach students what they need to know and to teach it in a way that they can remember it! Find tips and tricks for teaching pesky grammar problems in this blog!

Simple, Compound, Complex Sentences Review Game

We just finished playing our simple, compound, complex sentences review game in my seventh grade ELA class, and my students had a blast!  Have you ever noticed that you can teach a concept over and over, but some students just refuse to pay attention?  When this happens, playing a review game can really help.  We have been working on learning the different types of sentences all year, but today on February 19th, we were finally ready for some game playing action, and magically, my students finally cared enough to figure out the difference between a compound and a complex sentence.

Before you are ready to play this simple, compound, complex sentences review game with your students, you must have taught the different types.  Teaching the types of sentences (simple, compound, complex) is no easy task.  There are many steps to the process.  First, students must understand subjects and verbs, and then they must be able to identify the types of clauses – independent and dependent.  Once this groundwork is completed, it still takes time for them to figure out what type of sentence they are reading or writing.   After you have drilled it and taught it until you’re blue in the face, change things up and try this simple, compound, complex sentences review game.  Those students who get that glaze over their eyes when any type of grammar instruction is taught will perk up and pay attention, and I guarantee you that your students will beg you to play again!

Materials you will need:
Decks of cards (You can buy them at the dollar store.  We found two packs for a dollar there.)
A PowerPoint with different types of sentences.
Students will earn points by correctly identifying sentences (presented in a PowerPoint) as simple, compound, complex, or compound complex.

How to Play

Students will draw a card and earn the points presented on the card if they correctly identify the type of sentence.
Numbered cards = that number of points
• Ace =fourteen points
• King= thirteen points
• Queen = twelve points
• Jack = eleven points
Jokers = Double or nothing
Note: If a player draws a joker, he/she must draw the next card on the deck. The sentence is now worth double the amount on the second card. If the student correctly identifies the sentence type, he/she earns the double point value. Here is the kicker though, and part of what makes this game so fun.  If he/she misidentifies the type of sentence, he/she loses all of his/her points so far in the game and must start over at zero.  That’s why we call the game “The Joker”.  It’s a game of luck and a game of knowing your ELA stuff!  If you draw a joker, it’s all or nothing with the next sentence, so students know they better get it right!

So students place this card face up on their desks.  Then, the teacher shows the first sentence on the PowerPoint presentation.  Students read the sentence to themselves and decide if it is a simple, compound, complex, or compound complex sentence.  Once a desired amount of time passes for the teacher, he/she will instruct for pens to be put down and then he/she will explain the sentence by pointing out the clauses.  After an explanation, the answer will be given.  If students chose the correct answer, they earn the amount of points shown on the card.  If they got it wrong, they earn zero points for that round.  Next, new cards are given out and the game continues.  The jokers can hit at any moment, which adds excitement!  Everyone wants to know when someone ends up with a joker and everything is on the line!

This simple, compound, complex sentences review game can be played in small groups or as a whole class. You can download our directions here  for free and make up your own sentences, or buy our PowerPoint for only $5 and have all of the work done for you!

In our PowerPoint, there are three slides per round. The first slide will give a sentence. The second slide highlights the clauses (independent and dependent) in the sentence but does not yet give the answer. This way, you can use this slide to give hints if needed or to make sure students are paying attention before you give the answer. This is what makes this game an incredible teaching tool!   The third slide in the set will give the answer. At this point, students give themselves their points if they answered correctly. Then, the next round begins. There are 110 slides in this PowerPoint, enough for several class periods of play! All types of sentences are used. Also, full directions and student answer sheets are provided. You can save this simple, compound, complex sentences review game, and use it for years to come!


Happy Teaching!


Affect vs. Effect Mnemonic

The words affect and effect are sometimes hard for middle school students to understand.  Here is a handy trick to use in your ELA classroom!  Use the following affect vs. effect mnemonic to help teach the difference between the confusing words:   RAVEN


Affect is a


Effect is a


This affect vs. effect mnemonic will not work, however, if students do not know the difference between nouns and verbs.   If students have trouble, tell them to plug in the word “outcome”.  If the word outcome sounds right, instruct them to use “effect”.  If it doesn’t, tell them to use “affect”.  Take a look at the following examples:

The medicine had an immediate outcome (effect) on the pain.

Pollution affects our environment.  Pollution outcomes our environment does not sound right, so I know that it’s affect and not effect.

This is a trick of course, so it only works 95% of the time, but for our seventh graders, it has worked wonders!


Check out our Grammar Gremlins resource to find more tricks like this one!

Grammar Gremlins: Grammar Mini-Lessons for Middle School

They jump out at us in countless middle school essays. They lure our red pens to make endless circles and bold question marks. Occasionally, they even taunt us to create angry holes in a student’s notebook paper! At the worst, they can sometimes cause us to lose sleep and wonder, “Will my students ever transfer my instruction to their writing?” What are “they”? We have chosen to call them gremlins – grammar gremlins. This species consists of errors that are repetitive and widespread among the student population.

Read on to print free handouts and to once and for all find out how take care of those pesky writing mistakes like it’s vs. its, to vs. too, principal vs. principle and more!

Each Monday, we introduce the “Gremlin of the Week” by passing out one of the mini-lessons included in this book. These lessons are student friendly and include tricks to help students learn! After we teach the lesson and make sure all students understand, it is time for them to respond. Students complete a foldable, flapbook, or cut-out (also included in this packet) as an interactive activity. A practice page is then given either as classwork or homework for a quick assessment of that week’s gremlin. Then, on Friday, we give the quiz.

Practice pages and quizzes are included! In addition, there are review tests, complete with study guides, after every five lessons. The following twenty-four “gremlins” are tackled with this book.

  • Lessons included:
  • It’s vs. Its
  • Your vs. You’re
  • To vs. Too
  • Accept vs. Except
  • A lot (It’s two words!)
  • Review Study Guide and Review Test One
  • Their, There, They’re
  • I or Me?
  • Who’s vs. Whose
  • Affect or Effect
  • Punctuating Dialogue
  • Review Study Guide and Review Test 2
  • Dessert vs. Desert
  • Principal vs. Principle
  • Himself and Themselves
  • Singular vs. Plural Pronouns
  • Loose vs. Lose
  • Review Study Guide and Review Test 3
  • Apostrophes
  • Commas with Independent Clauses
  • Semicolons
  • The Colon
  • Capitalization of Geographical Words and School Subjects
  • Capitalization of Calendar Items, Brands, and Family Names
  • Run-on Sentences
  • Fragments
  • Who vs. Whom
  • Review Study Guide and Review Test 4
  • Rubrics; Answer Keys

While every grammar and usage mishap is not included in this book, we have chosen those that have been monumental and overexposed in our own teaching experience. We also provide mnemonics and tricks to help students remember the rules!

What’s the deal with the gremlin?

Our little gremlin appears in each lesson. Facts about his gremlin world are included in all of the mini-lessons. This helps keep things interesting and will give your students something to giggle about! We have a gremlin word wall in our classrooms, where all of our “gremlins” go after we learn them each week. Also, after a grammar gremlin is taught, students must be careful to edit their writing to make sure it is used correctly. For example, if we have already covered the semicolon as a gremlin, students are to make sure they use it correctly in their writing. If they do not, “GREMLIN ALERT!” is written right on their paper. This is great for writing instruction because the teacher can ignore the mistakes that have not been covered yet and only focus on the ones that have been taught. Students build their “editing toolbox” as the lessons progress each week.

Make it fun!

Monsters are very popular these days. We buy monster stickers and reward students with them when they make a 100 on a gremlin quiz. We make a Gremlin Wall and hang cute little cut out monsters with each lesson that we learn.

Just the other day at the Dollar Tree, I found the cutest little squishy monsters.  I bought a few and plan to toss them around on Mondays when we learn our gremlin for the week.  Whoever catches it will either answer a question about the gremlin or use it correctly in a sentence.

Also, once a gremlin has been taught and placed on our Gremlin Wall, we are serious about it in writing assignments.  For example, if we have already covered the semicolon as a gremlin, students are to make sure they use it correctly in their writing.  If they do not, I am quick to write “GREMLIN ALERT!” right on their paper.  This is great for writing instruction because I can ignore the mistakes that I have not covered yet and only focus on the ones that we have covered.  Students build their “editing toolbox” as we progress each week.

*Note: Everything you need to have a weekly grammar gremlin and create an interactive notebook is included in this packet. Twenty-four mini lessons, foldables, flapbooks, or cutouts, practice pages, quizzes, review tests and answer keys are included. Even if you are not sure about using interactive notebooks, this resource will work for you. Activities can be done in a binder, and pictures and descriptions are provided to make everything easy to teach!

You are going to LOVE Grammar Gremlins! By far, this is one of the best and greatest resources that we use in our own classrooms!  Click the link below for a free sample from Grammar Gremlins.

FREE mini-lessons, practice sheets, and quizzes from Grammar Gremlins~Avoiding the Little Monsters in Writing