Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Coffee Is Mine-- A Lesson in Using Possessive Pronouns

     "PUT TRASH IN IT IS PLACE."  No.  Neither does the "it" own the place.  When using possessive pronouns, the rule is to never use an apostrophe, because the word itself is already possessive.  So, if we do add one of those little apostrophes in just for fun, it reads like a contraction.  "PUT TRASH IN IT IS PLACE."

      And just for fun, this is how I teach possessives.  Every morning I am usually holding my coffee cup during English class as we accomplish math and English first thing in the morning, and while I am busy teaching, I never have enough time to take enough sips of my coffee.  Thus it is that by 10:30 a.m., I've (I + have) been teaching for two hours and have a half-full, cold cup of coffee.  So, I grab my cup of coffee and the students know what is coming.  I always say, "I own my cup of coffee; I possess my cup of coffee."   Then, while holding my half-full, cold cup of coffee, we all chorus together:
"It's MY cup.  The cup is MINE.
It's YOUR cup.  The cup is YOURS.
It's HIS cup.  The cup is HIS.
It's HER cup.  The cup is HERS.
It's ITS cup.  The cup is ITS.  (Notice no apostrophe there except where it is supposed to be:
                                                  It  IS  its cup (the cat's cup).)
It's OUR cup.  The cup is OURS.
It's THEIR cup.  The cup is THEIRS."

     To make this even more fun (and it is fun, even the grades which are not having a lesson on possessives stop the work they are doing and go along with us), we point to ourselves (my), the person closest to us (you), the boy (his) and girl (her) at the back of the room, the frog in the fish tank (its), all the people in the class (our), and the classroom next door (their) while we are all saying it together.
(This sign was not made by one of my students.)
      Bottom line?  It works.  My students rarely miss a possessive or put an apostrophe in the wrong place.   They see those intimidating words "possessive pronouns" on their lesson or a test, think for a minute, envision the coffee cup, remember the chant, and begin writing correct answers.  Mission accomplished.   For more lovely signs like these, click here and keep scrolling all the way to the bottom.  Then, if it says "Older Posts", click on that and you'll (you + will) see even more.   :-)