Pronouns are a fundamental grammar concept for middle and high school students to grasp. But teaching grammar is often a challenge! Here are some quick tips and easy activities to do with your middle or high school students when teaching and reviewing pronouns.
Warm-Up / Introductory Activities
- Invite students to take turns coming up to the board to write words that they believe are pronouns. Or, for a quick competition, divide the class and the board into sections and see which section can write the most correct words in 3 minutes or so. Afterward, use the examples and non-examples (wrong answers) on the board to introduce what words are pronouns. Also, if you notice any trends in the examples and non-examples that students wrote, these can guide your teaching!
- Give students a paragraph written without pronouns (repeat the antecedent instead of using a pronoun for it) to show how pronouns take the place of nouns to help avoid awkward repetition.
- One of my favorite pedagogical mantras is simply, “Teach from the known to the unknown.” Use a brief pre-test or one of the simple activities above to gauge your students’ existing level of knowledge of pronouns. Take what students know and work from there. If they know little to nothing about pronouns, find something unrelated that they do know and use that as the foundation for your lessons. (You’ll have to get creative here!)
- To incorporate writing, give a brief (1-2 paragraph) writing prompt surrounding pronouns that reinforces the concept in the previous lesson. If time allows, have students interact with each others’ writing.
Example: Write one paragraph about a person you admire. Exchange your paragraph with the person beside you, and circle all of the pronouns in his or her paragraph.
Don’t feel like you have to grade these. You can collect them if you want, and just issue a check or check-plus for completion, or simply give them a quick glance for accuracy/ effort, making a note of any students who particularly struggled.
- Check for understanding at the end of each lesson by asking 1-2 brief questions on an exit ticket.
- After you explain a concept, pause, and ask, “what questions do you have?” Never leave it up to the students to interrupt you to ask questions. Most won’t. Encourage questions, thank them for their questions, and verify that you have thoroughly answered their question before you move on.
If your students never ask questions, OR if they ask too many silly questions, try doing somewhat of a reverse exit ticket: have students write down 1-2 questions that they have about the lesson and turn in on their way out the door. Answer the questions in the next lesson. This will often give you insight into what was unclear in your lesson, takes the pressure off students who are nervous about taking the initiative to ask their question in front of the class, and curbs the students who just want to create a distraction by asking pointless questions… win-win-win!
- My big list of free resources for ELA teachers includes several sites where students can learn and practice grammar concepts.
- I wrote a post about my students’ favorite free and easy review games for grammar and literature- check it out!
- We never learn something so thoroughly as we do when we have to teach it. Have students create a brief PowerPoint, Google Slides, or Prezi presentation about pronouns. It’s usually best to assign a narrow mini-lesson topic to each student, such as “possessive pronouns,” or “common pronoun mistakes.”
Give parameters about your expectations such as minimum number of slides, must include example sentences, etc. I like to encourage students to include some fun photos or clip art in their presentation, to allow them to be creative. Encourage them to use their notes to create their presentation, and to put it together as if they were going to be the teacher for the day.
If time and circumstances allow, consider having students present their mini lessons that they created.
- Let students help you build your test! Ask students to write a few questions each about the grammar concept (e.g.: what part of speech can modify a noun or pronoun?) and turn them in. Re-word for clarity as needed, and include as many as possible on the test. Students will look forward to seeing their questions on the test, and feel confident that they know the answer.
- Similarly, have students write a short quiz (for middle school, I usually do 5 questions) and exchange with their peers. Give specific rules and example questions/ sentences. If necessary, have students turn their quizzes in for you to check prior to exchanging. Depending on the class, you may even be able to record the quiz in the grade book.
This review activity takes practice, but once you’ve done a couple, the students usually get the hang of it, and it’s a great way for them interact with the material, and have fun challenging their peers.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive pronouns unit, I’ve got one right here for you! Super low-prep; hours and hours of work, already done! Additionally, if you just need some supporting resources, several of the items in the unit are also available a la carte. Check it out!