Giggles in the Middle

Start focusing on grammar in middle school for a more prepared high school experience.

Here’s a problem I see so often: students who are dreadfully deficient in grammar. Few schools today focus on the nitty-gritty grammar lessons that are oh so crucial. Instead, many schools try to teach grammar through writing. I find that students do not really have a solid understanding about grammar and they don’t know the rules. Learning and getting comfortable with these rules make writing more coherent and sophisticated in the long run.

In addition, learning grammar prepares students for the SAT. The Writing section on the SAT is really a grammar section plus a 25-minute essay. I have students who score only a 400 out of 800 in this section the first time they take it. However, after only a few sessions that are centered on learning basic grammar concepts, these same students can score 600 or more.

Middle school is the time and place to learn grammar rules. If your school is not doing this, then it needs to be done at home. Grammar instruction will not be a tedious, nail biting experience if it’s handled in a way that is fun and complements school instruction. This kind of enrichment will help a student’s writing and provide a head start in preparing for the SAT.

Let me suggest two books that will make this task easy and enjoyable. Giggles in the Middle, by Jane Bell Keister, is a great guide to learning vocabulary and grammar through a story that middle school students will love. Students read the first two pages of the story. The next paragraph has lots of grammar and sentence structure mistakes. Students fix the paragraph and then compare their edits to the correct version that’s provided. The next day, the student tackles the next poorly worded paragraph.

It’s not just grammar the students learn. The book also contains terrific middle school vocabulary words with definitions. In the course of a year, students read a great story, learn vocabulary, and become grammar experts. The paragraph exercise takes approximately 5-10 minutes, fitting easily into any student or parent’s busy schedule. The book can be purchased through Maupin House or Amazon.

To complement Giggles in the Middle, I recommend my simple, easy-to-follow grammar book, English in English. The book also provides all the grammar rules and “tricks” necessary for acing the future SAT. It includes mini lessons and handy checklists, in a practical book designed to keep students calm when preparing for the big tests. It is available for purchase at