Grammar Rules: Teaching the Exceptions

Learning grammar rules is never an easy task, particularly when it comes to exceptions. 

Traditionally grammar has been taught through memorisation, and students have been assessed on the correct application of these rules. This can be an effective method for teaching general rules, but to truly grasp a language, students must also have a thorough understanding of the exceptions to these rules. 

By understanding and applying these exceptions, students will become highly competent speakers and writers, with a deep understanding of language’s richness and flexibility. 

Our guide to teaching the exceptions to grammar rules in English can make learning easier and more enjoyable for students.

Start with the Basics

Before diving into the exceptions, ensure your students have a solid understanding of the basic grammar rules. This foundation is crucial as it provides the context within which exceptions occur. For example, teach the standard rule for forming plural nouns by adding “-s” or “-es” (e.g., cat – cats, bus – buses).

Introduce Exceptions Gradually

Instead of overwhelming students with all the exceptions at once, introduce them gradually. Use a systematic approach, such as addressing one rule and its exceptions per lesson. For instance, after explaining the standard plural formation, introduce the irregular plurals (e.g., child – children, mouse – mice).

Use Real-life Examples

Teach exceptions within the context of sentences and stories. This method helps students see how these exceptions function in real-life usage. For instance, while teaching the irregular past tense of verbs, use sentences like “She went to the store” and “He ate an apple.” Contextual learning makes the rules more relatable and easier to grasp.

Practice Through Repetition

Repetition is key to mastering grammar exceptions. Regular practice helps reinforce the rules and their exceptions. Encourage students to write sentences or short paragraphs using the exceptions they’ve learned. This hands-on practice solidifies 

Use Mnemonics and Visual Aids

Mnemonics and visual aids can significantly enhance memory retention. Create simple, catchy phrases or visual associations to help students remember specific exceptions. For example, for irregular verbs, use a rhyme like “Sing, sang, sung, the song is sung” to illustrate the different forms of the verb “to sing.”

Employ Interactive Activities

Incorporate fun interactive activities such as games, role-playing, and group discussions. Activities like “Grammar Bingo” or “Irregular Verb Relay” can make learning fun and engaging. Role-playing scenarios where students must use specific grammar exceptions can also be very effective. These activities provide a dynamic and supportive learning environment.

Provide Clear Examples 

Create comprehensive lists of exceptions and provide clear examples for each. Keep these lists accessible for students to refer to during their practice sessions. Visual charts or tables can also be helpful in organising this information clearly.

Common exceptions include:

  • Irregular Past Tense Verbs: Don’t follow the regular “-ed” ending pattern. For example, the past tense of “go” is “went.”
  • Irregular Plurals: Do not follow the standard rule of adding “-s” or “-es” to form the plural. For example, the plural of “mouse” is “mice.
  • Pronoun Agreement: Exceptions occur in cases like collective nouns or when using singular “they.” For example, “Everyone should bring their own book” uses “their” to agree with the singular “everyone.”
  • Adjective Order: Certain adjectives, like those expressing opinion or quantity, can change their typical position for emphasis or style. For example, “a beautiful three-year-old cat” instead of “a three-year-old beautiful cat.
  • Spelling Rules:  Many words don’t follow the rule “i before e except after c” such as “weird.”
  • Subject-Verb Agreement: When the subject and verb do not follow standard singular/plural matching. For example, “The news is on at 6 PM” uses “is” with “news,” which is singular despite ending in “s.”

Discover The Tutor Doctor Difference and Master Grammar Rules 

Our tutors understand that learning exceptions to grammar rules can be frustrating for students. We provide constructive feedback and a supportive environment to boost their confidence and motivation to keep learning.

We assess each student to identify their needs and design a learning program specially tailored to their requirements. 

Contact us for a free consultation today.