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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. Greetings,
    Thank you for the tips.

  2. I love when you can see the change! It will also make a great discussion of what letters are omitted, since there is no pattern. Some it is the first letter, others the first two, some the middle letter, etc. Perhaps a highlighter marking the letters that will disappear will help too!

  3. these are great tips! I am going to try them with my older kids too.

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