Grammar & punctuation
Spelling, punctuation, and grammar – often called SPaG in schools – are crucial building blocks for children learning to speak, write, and listen. Having a good knowledge of grammar allows your child to communicate their ideas and feelings, and helps them choose the right language for any situation.
By the end of primary school, your child will be expected to understand and be able to use all the grammar and punctuation set out in the National Curriculum. Some grammar words, like fronted adverbial and blending, can seem a bit daunting, but children will learn to use these types of words automatically from their reading and speaking – the tricky part is being able to recognise them.
Your child will be informally tested on spelling, grammar, and punctuation by their teacher throughout their time at school. There is also an optional national test in Year 2, and a compulsory national test in May of Year 6.
There are a variety of simple things you can do at home to support your child’s developing grammar and punctuation skills.
What your child will learn
Follow the links below for an overview of each year, with lots of information, support, and practice activities:
Grammar & punctuation in Year 1 (age 5–6)
- using capital letters, full stops, question marks, and exclamation marks
- turning nouns into their plural form using -s and -es
- adding suffixes to verbs where no change is needed in the spelling of the root word (for example, helping, helped, helper).
Grammar & punctuation in Year 2 (age 6–7)
- knowing and using statements, questions, exclamations, and commands
- using the present and past tenses, as well as the progressive form
- using suffixes like -ness, -er, -est, and -ly
- using apostrophes to mark where letters are missing and to mark possession
Grammar & punctuation in Year 3 (age 7–8)
In Year 3, children will learn to format text, to express time, place, and cause, and to use more complex word forms. This includes:
- using conjunctions, adverbs, and prepositions to express time, place, and cause
- using paragraphs, headings, and subheadings
- using the past perfect form.
Grammar & punctuation in Year 4 (age 8–9)
In Year 4, children will learn to use more complex sentences, to write in different styles, and to use less common punctuation. This includes:
- writing noun phrases expanded by modifying adjectives, nouns, and preposition phrases
- using and understanding plural possession
- using Standard English forms for verb inflections where appropriate
- using inverted commas to indicate direct speech.
Grammar & punctuation in Year 5 (age 9–10)
In Year 5, children will learn to use more complex word forms and clauses, to use uncommon punctuation, and to build cohesion by linking ideas across a text. This includes:
- converting nouns or adjectives into verbs using suffixes like –ate, –ise, –ify
- using brackets, dashes, or commas to indicate parentheses
- linking ideas across paragraphs using adverbials of time, place, and number.
Grammar & punctuation in Year 6 (age 10–11)
In Year 6, children will learn to use formal and informal language appropriately, to use a wide range of cohesive devices, and to use punctuation in new ways. This includes:
- making use of the passive voice
- linking ideas across paragraphs with cohesive devices, such as repetition of a phrase, grammatical connections, or ellipses
- using semi-colons, colons, and dashes to mark the boundary between independent clauses
- using hyphens to avoid ambiguity.
How to help at home
There are plenty of simple and effective ways you can help your child with punctuation and grammar. Here are a few of our top ideas.
1. Read to your child
While children do learn about language from speaking and listening, the type of language we use in writing is often different from that in speech. Reading regularly to your child, especially books that they cannot yet read independently, is a great way of developing their vocabulary and their understanding of how language works.
2. Encourage your child to read
Making time to hear your child read isn’t just good for their reading. Through frequently seeing words in print, they will have the opportunity to see how the punctuation and grammar are used to share meaning.
When you read, occasionally look at the punctuation and talk about what it is telling the reader to do. For example, you could show your child how a question mark tells you to raise your voice at the end of the sentence to indicate a question being asked.
Explore how you can show the ‘feeling’ behind an exclamation mark. Are the characters shouting? Has something unexpected happened? Has something gone wrong?
3. Play games
Playing games can help children to learn about grammar and punctuation in an enjoyable way. Watch grammar expert Charlotte Raby’s video ‘How can I help my child with grammar, punctuation and spelling?’ to see some quick and easy games in action:
Charlotte Raby offers her expert advice for helping your child develop their grammar, punctuation, and spelling skills at home.