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How to Teach Contractions - All About Learning PressWould 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?
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. Now write or build the words she will. Cross out the wi and replace those letters with an apostrophe. Explain to your student that she’ll is a shortcut, a shorter way of saying she will.
    5. 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!
    6. 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.
      How to Teach Contractions - All About Learning Press

      The student folds the word strip on the solid line to reveal the contraction, such as I’m.

      How to Teach Contractions - All About Learning Press

    Would you like to download our lessons on contractions?

    Download Lesson 27 of All About Reading Level 2 to see how we teach contractions in our reading program.

    pdf-icon-transparent-background2-small-p3AAR Level 2, Lesson 27, Teacher’s Manual
    pdf-icon-transparent-background2-small-p3AAR 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.

    pdf-icon-transparent-background2-small-p3AAS Level 3, Step 27, Teacher’s Manual
    Below is a list of contractions you can teach and practice with your child.

    How to Teach Contractions - All About Learning Press

    Click to download and print this contractions list!


    Do your children use contractions properly, or are they still figuring them out?
About Marie Rippel

Marie Rippel, curriculum developer of the award-winning All About Reading and All About Spelling programs, is known for taking the struggle out of both teaching and learning. Marie is an Orton-Gillingham practitioner, sought-after speaker, and member of the International Dyslexia Association. When not writing or teaching, Marie can be found riding her Icelandic horses.


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  1. I’m excited to get started with the program and have this great resource!

  2. Elizabeth B. says:

    I like the idea of the rubber band as well as showing with the paper how they are contracted. Nice hands-on ways of showing what happens in English.

  3. Darlene Harris says:

    Thank you for sharing this. All of the workbooks I’ve seen address contractions in a way that is boring and not very effective. This gives me a whole new approach!

  4. Lisa Antonic says:

    Your resources are fantastic! They make learning FUN and effective!

  5. Annie Twitchell says:

    I’m always interested in different ways to teach, especially how to teach English – I’m a writer, but teaching my little brothers the basics of how to write will be interesting. I’ve never had a problem with contractions, even with my dyslexia, but that’s something they haven’t grasped fully yet.

    • Annie,
      Contractions are one of those things. Some kids get them easily, maybe even without an explanation, but some struggle. I’ve had a couple of kids that thought the apostrophes were decorations to hang anywhere. The way All About Spelling and All About Reading explains them really helped my kids master contractions.

      How wonderful that you will be teaching your little brothers.

  6. Great post! Thanks for sharing

  7. Anne Davis says:

    We haven’t started teaching contractionsyet, but these are great ideas!

  8. I love the list! So helpful!

  9. so interesting!

  10. Awesome idea. I love it!

  11. Big help!

  12. Great way to teach contractions without confusion!

  13. Emily Williamson says:

    Your hints for teaching are AMAZING!
    Thank you!

  14. I really like idea #5. I am going to bookmark this for when I get to contractions with my next child.

  15. Leticia G. says:

    I love All About Spelling, my kids love All About Spelling. It is also recommended by Andrew Peduwa from Institute for Excellence in Writing. I think that without this program I would stil be piecing together work for my kids in spelling, I’m so grateful I don’t have to, thank you for what you do.

  16. Great timing! We just had this discussion the other day, but we’re just working through Level 1. Thanks for sharing.

  17. We LOVE this program…I’m almost ready to start level 3 with my two oldest. It really has helped them so much with spelling! I love these suggestions for teaching contractions. Thank you for all your work! FYI: I have also recommended your program to many moms in our mom support group at our local co-op! Several have purchased and use your All About Spelling Program and have been blown away by results just as I have! Thank you again!

  18. I truly enjoy your blog. I have taken reading lists to the library with me and my boys have benefitted from your advice. I often forward on your emails to friends. Now one of them is starting AAR. Thank you!

  19. My 8yo does well most of the times when writing with contractions. I have explained to her what the apostrophe does, as in replacing the letters, which has helped her to grasp the concept of using it. However, you have made some good points about other aspects that I will most certainly cover during our next lessons, including the activity.
    Thanks so much for sharing!

  20. Just discovered this website a few weeks ago and am excited about it, especially for my second grader.

  21. This makes teaching contractions so much easier. Thank you

  22. We have 8 year old twins and will begin homeschooling in January. I am interested in All about Reading and Spelling because our son was diagnosed with auditory, processing problems.

  23. This is an interesting way to teach contractions and a fun way for the children :) Thanks for sharing your ideas.

  24. Valentine says:

    Thank you for the great ideas!

  25. I really believe this program will help my 9 year-old son and myself included. I only remember being told to memorize spelling words in elementary school, how frustrating. I’m so excited to try AAS. Thank you Maria!

  26. Wow. This is really helpful.

  27. stacey michals says:

    i love contractions! this is a great method!

  28. We’re still working on contractions. Thanks for the great lesson!

  29. Shanna Saleh says:

    Misuse of contractions are one of my biggest pet peeves. Love these lessons!

  30. We tried the strips of paper and they were a big hit. Thanks!

  31. It seems like a good visual and tactile way to show contractions for my kids.

  32. Colleen McFiggins says:

    Love the paper strip idea! Seeing your and you’re misused definitely does make me cringe! Thanks for this post!

  33. Kristina Best says:

    I never thought about fun ways to teach this. :) Thank you

  34. I just received a welcome letter from my daughter’s new 2nd grade teacher in public school. Even SHE doesn’t know how to use contractions.

    • Masie,
      Oh, no!

      I try to have grace with people such as that, as we all make errors and typos at times (I caught myself in an its/it’s error just recently, AFTER an email went out!), but a teacher, sending out a letter the first week of school… You would think they would proof the letter more closely. Sigh.

    • Either proof the letter or she really doesn’t know. I see a lot of adults spell “alot” as one word. Cringe!

      • Cherie,
        Yes! We don’t have “alittle” so why would we have “alot”.

        My English teacher in 9th grade called me out in front of the class in the first week of school because I used “a lot” correctly, and I remember thinking, “Well, of course ‘a lot’ is two words.” Apparently, it’s not “of course” for many people.

  35. Great idea!

  36. Christine says:

    This is brilliant! I’ve commented for the giveaway.

  37. Great tips!

  38. Jennifer G. says:

    I love the way you teach. Can’t wait to try this. Thank you!

  39. Thanks for the list and the advice!

  40. Can’t wait to try out this program with my daughter, I’ve heard so many good things about it!

  41. We haven’t even started contractions.

  42. Michelle Kaufman says:

    This is great info! Thank you!!

  43. Terri Duncan says:

    This looks so awesome! Keep up the great work, we need all we can get=) Many Blessings!

  44. Thanks Marie! This will help lots in our house.

  45. Lucy Chaves says:

    I just found your blog and will keep reading. Thank you for all you do. Lucy

  46. Very useful info – thanks!

  47. I have read nothing but great reviews of All about Spelling and Reading – keep it up and looking forward to winning!!

  48. Rita McKenzie says:

    This curriculum gives me hope for my son. I had been considering one of those places where you pay someone to teach your child how to read and spell. I have tried a couple other curriculum that was very difficult for me to even figure it out. I’m excited to find help for my sons learning issues, including dyslexia. Can’t wait to get started!

    • Rita,
      In addition to the materials we sell, All About Learning Press also offers lifetime support. If at any time you need any help, or even just have a simple “why” question, we are here to help through email ( or phone (715-477-1976). All of us that work in customer care at AALP have personal experience with teaching reading and spelling to children with learning difficulties. We have been there, we have done that, and we are here to help you do it too!

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