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How to Teach Pronouns

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Teaching pronouns is an important part of any beginning level English curriculum. It's important to teach pronoun usage during the early stages when students are learning about the basic construction of any English sentence. I find the opportune moment to teach pronouns comes after basic sentences with 'be' and some simple sentences with the present simple. At this point, students should be able to identify various parts of speech - at least basic verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs. This will coincide with students' awakening awareness of deeper sentence structure. Take this as a starting point to explore the role of subjects, objects, and possession as you introduce pronouns and possessive adjectives.

Introducing Pronouns

Subject Pronouns: Start by Using What Students Already Know

After a basic understanding of the verb 'to be' and some other simple sentences has been acquired, begin introducing various pronouns by reviewing what they have already learned. I find it best to start by asking students to give me some examples of nouns and verbs. With this is mind, write a few basic sentences on the board making sure to use full names or objects. Write both singular and plural subjects with people and with objects.

For example:

Mary is an excellent teacher.
The computer is expensive.
Peter and Tom are students at this school.
The apples are very good.

Change to:

She is an excellent teacher.
It is expensive.
They are students at this school.
They are very good.

Ask students which words they can use to replace proper names and nouns such as 'David', 'Anna and Susan', 'the book', etc. Students will be able to produce the subject pronouns quite easily without actually knowing they are subject pronouns. Call attention to the role these nouns and pronouns play in the sentence. Finally, begin writing your pronoun chart on the board by filling in all subject pronouns with the class.

Object Pronouns: Point to Sentence Position

Next on the list of pronouns to introduce are object pronouns. I find it easiest to introduce these pronouns by pointing to sentence position in basic sentences. Ask students to identify whether the pronoun examples you write on the board come before the verb or after the verb. Once they recognize this, explain that object pronouns follow prepositions. Once again, write examples on the board with proper names and full nouns to show the difference between singular and plural object pronouns, as well as the difference between objects and people.

For example:

I bought a book yesterday.
Mary gave Peter a present.
The parents drove the children to school.
Tim picked up the soccer balls.

Change to:

I bought it yesterday.
Mary gave him a present.
The parents drove them to school.
Tim picked them up.

Ask students to help you with replacements, just as you have done with subject pronouns. Go to the board and fill in the object pronoun section of the chart you have started on the board.

Possessive Pronouns and Adjectives: Rounding out the Chart

Finally, introduce possessive pronouns and adjectives in a similar manner. Write a few examples on the board, and then ask students to help you fill in the chart. It's important to introduce these two forms together to help students understand the use of the possessive adjective WITH nouns and possessive pronoun WITHOUT nouns. Comparing the two in two sentences does the job well:

For example:

My book is on the table. It is mine.
Their bags are in the hall. They are theirs.
Ask students to complete similar sentences with you while you fill in the chart.

At this point, students will have been introduced to pronouns and possessive adjectives, as well as gained insight into sentence structure. Following you will find exercises and activities that you can use with students to continue to practice and explore pronouns.

Exercises and Activities

Use this learning pronouns lesson plan to follow along with the details outlined in this guide on how to teach pronouns. Students can then take this pronouns quiz to test their knowledge. Print this pronoun types page out for reference in your classroom.

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