How to Teach Contractions
by Marie Rippel
Would you like to help your child avoid some of the most common errors in written English?
I’m talking about the misuse of contractions, especially when it comes to words like it’s vs. its and you’re vs. your.
I’m sure you’ve seen these mistakes; maybe they’ve even made you cringe.
Giving your child a solid foundation in how contractions are formed and what they actually mean—that is, which letters the apostrophe replaces—will go a long way toward helping him or her avoid these common mistakes in the future.
What Is a Contraction?
A contraction consists of two words that are combined to form one word. To “contract” means to “make smaller,” and that is what we do when we form contractions: we take two longer words and contract them into one shorter word.
When Do We Use Contractions?
Contractions are informal “shortcuts” that we often take in our everyday speech. Instead of saying “Do not tease the dog,” we shorten it to “Don’t tease the dog.”
Those same shortcuts can be used in informal writing when we want our writing to reflect our way of speaking. In formal writing, however, it’s best to avoid contractions.
How Do We Teach Contractions?
- Use a rubber band to demonstrate to your student the concept of expanding and contracting. When you stretch the rubber band, it expands; when you let it go, it contracts. That’s what we’re doing when we contract words – we’re just making them smaller.
- Demonstrate the concept by writing he is on a piece of paper, or use letter tiles if you have them. Cross out the i and replace it with an apostrophe. Read the new word to your student to show how the pronunciation changes from he is to he’s.
- You may need to explain that an apostrophe is a type of punctuation mark. One of its jobs is to help us form contractions. However, many students put the apostrophe in the wrong spot, as in ar’nt. Understanding that the apostrophe must always take the place of the omitted letters will help prevent such errors.
- Now write or build the words she will. Cross out the w–i and replace those letters with an apostrophe. Explain to your student that she’ll is a shortcut, a shorter way of saying she will.
- Underscore the importance of the apostrophe by removing it from the contraction she’ll. Point out that without the apostrophe, the word is shell and not she’ll. Never forget the apostrophe!
- Finally, in All About Reading we include an engaging activity sheet where students create contractions out of printed strips of paper. The strip starts out with a pair of words, such as I am.
The student folds the word strip on the solid line to reveal the contraction, such as I’m.
Download Our Lessons on Contractions
Download Lesson 27 of All About Reading Level 2 to see how we teach contractions in our reading program.
AAR Level 2, Lesson 27, Teacher’s Manual
AAR Level 2, Lesson 27, “Fun with Contractions” activity sheet
Download Step 27 of All About Spelling Level 3 to see how we teach contractions in our spelling program.
AAS Level 3, Step 27, Teacher’s Manual
Below is a list of contractions you can teach and practice with your child.
Download and print this contractions list!
Do your children use contractions properly, or are they still figuring them out?