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Funner Grammar

Fresh Ways to Teach Usage, Language, and Writing Conventions, Grades 3-8

By Sandra Wilde

Grammar—doesn’t it seem so 19th century? Sandra changes that by going away from rote exercises and approaching language learning in ways that reflect contemporary usage, including respectful and celebratory treatment of American language diversity.

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“By the time you finish reading this book, you’ll have a solid plan for spending an appropriate amount of time on language topics that will move kids forward in their spoken and written expression, their ability to talk about language in technical ways using appropriate terminology, and their understanding of language in its social, cultural, and historical contexts.”

—Sandra Wilde

Grammar—doesn’t it seem so 19th century? In Funner Grammar, Sandra Wilde approaches language learning in ways that reflect contemporary usage, including respectful and celebratory treatment of American language diversity. Help your students learn about language for its own sake—without mind-numbing workbook exercises— with sample lessons and fresh ways of thinking about:

  • mechanics—the conventions of written language
  • traditional grammar instruction—simple and accurate ways to think about parts of speech, sentence types, and verb tenses
  • usage—why some ways that people speak are considered “wrong,” and how teachers can help kids understand and control their choices in spoken and written language
  • language and social justice—how knowledge of language variation can help us treat all children fairly and support English language learners
  • linguistics—how to explore language in interesting ways: its nature, history, and geography.

With appendices that suggest topics and units of study for different grade-level ranges, connections to the Common Core State Standards, and lists of selected readings for teachers and kids, Funner Grammar provides the tools to help kids explore and understand the fascinating and ever-changing world of grammar. Read Funner Grammar and provide your students with knowledge that will serve them in meeting language and grammar expectations in school and the world outside the classroom.

(click any section below to continue reading)


1. Mechanics: Conventions Found Only in Written Language

  • Is It the Right Word?
  • Capital Letters
  • Apostrophes
  • Abbreviations, Acronyms, and Initialisms
  • Where Do the Sentences Break?
  • Not Enough for a Sentence or Too Much: Fragments and Run-Ons
  • Paragraphing
  • Text Features Beyond the Paragraph
  • Bibliographic Citation

2. Nitty-Gritty Grammar: Words, Tenses, Sentences, and Complexity

  • Parts of SpeechVerb Tenses
  • Exploring Verb Tenses
  • How Sentences Work
  • Sentence and Text Complexity

3. Usage

  • Usage as a Social Marker
  • Talking About Usage with Students
  • Generational Usage Issues: Lost Battles and Losing Battles
  • Social-Group Usage Issues
  • English Language Learners and Usage
  • Usage and Word Choice: It’s Alternative, Not Alternate
  • A Footnote on Usage: Who’s in Charge Here?

4. Language Diversity and Social Justice

  • Myths About Language Variation
  • Working with Students With—and Without—Stigmatized Features in Their Language
  • So Now What?

5. Linguistics for Kids

  • What Is Language?
  • How Many Languages Are There in the World?
  • Where Did Language Come From?
  • What’s the Oldest Language? What’s the Newest One? What’s the Simplest One? The Most Complicated One?
  • Is Sign Language Really a Language?
  • Where Does the Alphabet Come From, and Why Doesn’t Everyone Use the Same One?
  • Is It True That People Taught Gorillas and Chimpanzees to Use Language?
  • Where Do People’s Names Come From?
  • Will We All Speak the Same Language Someday?


A. Language Curriculum Year by Year
B. The Common Core State Standards
C. Text Features for Student Writing: A Style Guide
D. Annotated Bibliographies
E. Literature in Different Versions of American English: Is It Authentic?



“This is the kind of book I hear teachers calling for all the time.”
–John McWhorter
Author of Spreading the Word

“Engagingly written and deeply researched, this sometimes iconoclastic book offers a realistic view of American English today, as well as fresh methods of teaching grammar in ways that are more inductive and more relevant to language use than most. Clearly written to inform and assist teachers, this always helpful book challenges favorite notions of language pundits, ethnocentric notions of dialect and language ‘correctness,’ and often parents’ beliefs as ‘what's true and right.’ The book’s a solid resource for teachers and teaching, and deserves a wide audience.”
–Constance Weaver
Author of Grammar to Enrich and Enhance Writing

“Teachers looking for ways to have real and joyful conversations with students about grammar should flock to this book. In it you will find everyday moves that will help students learn the ways in which grammar is more than an arbitrary code of conventions but rather a meaningful structure that helps us to share our ideas with the rest of the world.”
—Chantal Francois
Coauthor of Catching Up on Conventions

“Funner Grammar is a top-quality supplemental resource, worthy of the highest recommendation.”
—Midwest Book Review

“This is not a book of catchy teaching tricks; it leads the reader to a more conscious awareness and philosophy toward language. Instead of acting like snooty keepers of grammarian scripture, linguaphiles could be fascinating guides in an ever-changing language universe. I believe I am a better teacher today simply for reading this book!”
—Anna Lee Vincent, 7th grade teacher

“More than anything, I am grateful for this book. Wilde does not advocate banishing grammar teaching; rather she gives sensible, thought-provoking strategies towards approaching all things language. It is time well spent and one of the few "teacher books" that I will reread (perhaps, right away!). If you are a teacher or parent of a little one, I highly recommend that you pick up a copy for your library or tablet.”