Creating Battle Grammatica

Creating Battle Grammatica

by Esther Vandiver

How can you teach grammar, play a game, teach teamwork, earn individual extra credit points, and pretend to be a part of a medieval castle defended by the entire class and led by the Diligent Knight fighting off the attacks of the Slothful Knight-and do all this at the same time? About fifteen years ago I asked this question while home schooling. I began working on a game that would fulfill all the above requirements. With all the speed and determination of the turtle in “The Tortoise and the Hare” I made, perfected, made more perfect, threw out, redid, and made numerous new and improved versions of the game we now play at Grace Classical Academy called Battle Grammatica -and it only took me ten or so years! Then a couple of years ago Sean Yarnell applied his expertise in graphic artistry and made the game board the beautiful work of art it is today.

To allow 4th grade through high school students to be able to profit from the game, there are two levels of play: beginning and advanced. The game is time based, allowing the teacher to decide whether to play for 30 minutes, an hour or more. Battle Grammatica covers the definitions found in GCA’s “86 Definitions for Grammar” as well as applications of the students’ grammatical knowledge. The Slothful Knight’s goal is to destroy the joy and unity of the people and, thus, to defeat the castle. His tactic is to encourage the students to do the following: (1) exchange a rich, clear, colorful language for a dull, impoverished one, (2) lose all love of the beautiful, the noble and the true, and (3) be slothful in their attempts to communicate, losing their ability to be precise and effective. Every time a student gives a wrong answer, the Slothful Knight gains a point. The Diligent Knight, on the other hand, has as his goal to guard the castle, unify the kingdom and engender delight in the hearts of his people. His tactic is to encourage the students to do the following: (1) fully appreciate their rich, clear, colorful language, (2) love the quest and the discovery of the beautiful, the noble and the true, and (3) learn to communicate precisely and effectively, strengthening the best in one another. If the class, as a whole gets more points than the Slothful Knight, they have effectively defended the castle. The student with the most points at the end of the game becomes the Diligent Knight and gets ten extra credit points toward his/her grammar grade. If the Diligent Knight gets more points than the Slothful Knight, it shows that the whole class has done well, and each student gets his/her earned points (up to ten points) as extra credit points. In this way, each student gets value for his/her individual work, yet each student hopes that the class as a whole does well.

Each year, students have Battle Grammatica playoffs. The game is played a little differently in the playoffs. When students have given three wrong answers, they are automatically out of the game. We are proud of all of our students-winners or not-who make a special effort to learn how to use the English language well.


Luke Shawhan