Contraction Surgery

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.2

What You Need: Sentence strips with words that can become contractions (e.g., does not, I am); scissors; tape; adhesive bandages; surgical masks and rubber gloves (optional)

What To Do: At East Lake Elementary in Orlando, Florida, Dawn Lue Pann’s second-grade students do more than dream about becoming doctors. They actually become surgeons—of words!

First, Lue Pann introduces students to contractions, explaining that a contraction is two words shortened to one using an apostrophe. Once they’ve grasped the concept, students hunt through reading books for examples and share their discoveries with the group. Then, they are ready for surgery. Lue Pann models with a phrase such as do not: She cuts out the second o and the space between the words and then tapes the word back together; to complete her contraction, she adds an adhesive bandage in place of the apostrophe and presents the new word: don’t.

In pairs, students begin surgery on their own words, donning surgical masks and rubber gloves for fun. After they repeat the process several times, they come together to make a chart of their “patients.” Finally, kids write sentences using contractions.

Prized Possessions

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.2

What You Need: Books with possessive nouns in the title (e.g., Wodney Wat’s Wobot, by Helen Lester, and Babushka’s Doll, by Patricia Polacco); paper; pens; binder rings, staples, or yarn

What To Do: Doris Young, who teaches third grade at Wilderness Elementary in Spotsylvania, Virginia, introduces possessive nouns by displaying the covers of several books that have possessive nouns in the title and discussing why each author might have chosen to include the “apostrophe s.” She defines possessive nouns, relating possessive to possession and possess to point out these nouns indicate ownership.

Next, Young reads Wodney Wat’s Wobot and invites students to bring in their own prized possessions. The following day, students share their possessions in partners, answering questions like “What is this item?” “Where did you get it?” and “Why is it your prized possession?” (Young sees these interviews as a rehearsal to support the writing task.) Then, students write a descriptive paragraph about their most prized possession, and title it using a possessive noun (e.g., “Jenny’s Stuffed Bear”). Once a paragraph is complete, Young adds it into a book that gets placed in the classroom library. (Try doing yours using binder rings, staples, or yarn.)

“I tend to use authentic reading and writing activities over worksheets,” says Young, who blogs at Third Grade Thinkers. “I find they offer richer, more meaningful learning experiences.”

Making the Rules

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.2

What You Need: Books in a variety of genres, chart paper, markers

What To Do: Rather than drilling her third-grade students on the long list of rules about comma use, Amy Hoffman, who teaches at Green Tree Elementary in Lake St. Louis, Missouri, lets them “make” the rules themselves.

Hoffman’s students work in pairs to hunt through books for examples of how authors use commas. They look for patterns and try to write at least three rules that can be proved with at least three examples each. As they share their discoveries with the class, Hoffman documents their rules and examples on an anchor chart.

The next day, students look through another stack of books, this time trying to find a minimum of one example of every comma rule. “It gives them a real sense of ownership, because they were involved in ‘making’ these rules,” says Hoffman, who blogs at That Teaching Spark. “I tell them to make sure the authors used commas correctly, so the kids think they are looking for an author to make a mistake.”

Once they determine the rules, students must follow them. Hoffman monitors their writing notebooks for the next several days, explaining, “It’s one thing to use the skill in isolation, and another to apply it.”

Collection of Nouns

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.1

What You Need: Laminated cards with fill-in-the-blank phrases that use collective nouns (e.g., a _____ of grapes, a herd of _____ ); answer sheet that lists matching collective nouns and phrases; any game board with start and finish squares; assorted game pieces (one per player)

What To Do: Cynthia Vautrot’s second graders learned grammar, including how to form collective nouns, by playing games. “My philosophy is that students learn much better when playing a game,” explains Vautrot, who now teaches fourth grade at Ellijay Elementary School in Georgia.

Vautrot introduced collective nouns by reviewing the definition of a noun and defining collective nouns as names for a collection of people, animals, or things. She displayed words and pictures to expose students to collective noun phrases, from a bunch of grapes to a stand of flamingos.

Then came the games! In addition to playing a version of Memory, kids paired up to play a game Vautrot called Sneaking Up on Collective Nouns. First, she laid out a simple game board for each group. (Any board with a clear start and finish will work. You can find a template online, recycle old board games, or create your own.) Next, she placed one game piece per player on the first space of the board, and stacked a batch of the laminated cards in a pile, facedown. On each turn, a student turned over a laminated card and filled in the blank with a collective noun. For example, if a student turned over a card that said a bunch of _____, he or she could answer “grapes,” “bananas,” “balloons,” or any other appropriate collective noun. Students used the answer sheet to verify their answers were correct. For every correct answer, the guesser moved ahead one space, and then the next student took a turn. The child whose game piece crossed the finish line first won.

To extend the activity in your own classroom, ask students to use the collective noun correctly in a sentence and then move the game marker ahead one space.

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Images: FotoSpeedy/iStock (child); Oliver Hoffmann/iStock (adhesive bandage)