Contributor: Gina Hogan, Citrus College.

The objective of the competition is threefold: 1) to assess students on their comfort and knowledge of grammar concepts, 2) to review collectively for an upcoming grammar test, and 3) to engage students in a group activity that enhances student camaraderie and cohesion.

The competition requires every student’s participation in answering questions about grammar concepts. The questions pertain to the understanding or application of concepts we have worked on previously. Students perform individually but for team points. In other words, if a student offers the correct answer, the team gets a point, but if the student offers the incorrect answer, the team loses two points. The premise for the unusual scoring is to entice students to actually review before the grammar competition, so they know that they understand and can apply the material under pressure. Many times, this ‘team pressure’ encourages students to meet with me after class or during office hours to go over the material. Students have shared with me that the grammar competitions inspire them to learn the material and to know how to apply it. Of course, that is music to my ears because that is the basis for my role as a teacher.

The Method:

  1. Create 100 (or enough for each student to have 3 turns each) comprehension and application questions to use with a document projector.
  2. Divide the class randomly into 2 teams (you may pick or you may ask the students to pick their teammates) and request that each develops a team name. Throughout the competition, refer to the class by the team names.
  3. Cover the questions and reveal each one as you go, keeping in mind that each student must have at least 3 turns at answering questions.
  4. Allow one student to answer one question from one team then switch to the next team and allow one student to answer a different question. Do NOT use the same question for both teams since that will encourage cheating.
  5. Each student has a maximum of 30 seconds in which to respond. This increases the pressure for students to perform and speeds up the competition.
  6. Announce the scores periodically to increase the competition and to keep the teams knowledgeable of the scores.
  7. Consider giving the winning team extra points on a quiz or assignment or reward them in other ways like candy or homework passes.

Writing Tip
Mnemonic Device: Acronym for concluding

  1. Explain to students that the conclusion paragraph is the last paragraph in the essay designed to bring the discussion to a satisfying close and to establish a sense of closure. When students start a conclusion paragraph, they could consider the acronym RORS in remembering the methods for concluding.

Students may use any or all of the following methods:

Mnemonic Device: Acronym for concluding

  1. Explain to students that the conclusion paragraph is the last paragraph in the essay designed to bring the discussion to a satisfying close and to establish a sense of closure. When students start a conclusion paragraph, they could consider the acronym RORS in remembering the methods for concluding.
  2. Students may use any or all of the following methods:

Restating the thesis statement in different words
Offering a final observation about the topic
Remarking thoughtfully about the topic
Summarizing the supporting points in the body of the essay


Gina Hogan is a tenured professor in the English department at Citrus College in Glendora, California. She has developed and taught developmental English courses, trained and mentored faculty in teaching developmental writing, and helped create Citrus College’s Writing Café, a writing across-the-curriculum center. For five years, she served as Chair of the College Success Advisory Committee, a committee that continues to advocate the core principles of Citrus’ developmental program. Gina has an MS in Business Administration and an MA in English Composition and Literature and is currently working on a doctorate in Education (Ed.D). Gina is a naturalized citizen of the United States, and English is her third language. She understands the challenges inherent to learning effective communication skills, and her passion is helping others learn to communicate clearly and to appreciate the written language.

Do you have a unique suggestion for an activity to use in the developmental reading and writing classroom? Submit your idea to thinktank@cengage.com.