How to Teach Contractions

How to Teach Contractions - All About Learning Press

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?

  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

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

Download and print this contractions list!

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

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Leave a Comment

Ram Singh Rawat


Hi I want to know that can we write contraction for very young children let’s say Grade 1 or 2 .

Yes, many 6 and 7 year old children (1st to 2nd Grade) are able to easily learn contractions, particularly with the activities explained in this blog post.

Please let me know if you have further questions.




Yara Silva


Thank you for the tips.



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!

Oooo, I like the highlighter tip! Makes it very hands-on.



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

These tips and activities really make contractions easy to understand. I’m sure they will help your older kids too.



we are loving AAR and these contraction tips are great. My son is now doing much better with contractions.

This is great to hear! I’m glad this has been helpful for your son.



Very helpful!



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

Elizabeth B.


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.

Darlene Harris


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!

You are welcome! This little folding activity is simple, but it is a powerful demonstration to what is actually happening with contractions.

Lisa Antonic


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

Annie Twitchell


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.

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.



Great post! Thanks for sharing

Anne Davis


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



I love the list! So helpful!



so interesting!



Awesome idea. I love it!



Big help!



Great way to teach contractions without confusion!

Emily Williamson


Your hints for teaching are AMAZING!
Thank you!

Merry at AALP


I agree–Marie has an amazing talent!



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

Leticia G.


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.

Merry at AALP


Oh, Leticia, you are bringing back memories–I tried to piece together and come up with my own program before I found AAS–SOOO much work! And it gets more complex as you go–I’m really thankful for the work AAS saved me and how it helped my kids! I talked about my experiences a bit in this interview: http://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/interview-with-merry-marinello-homeschool-parent



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



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!

Aw, thanks for your kind words, Julie!



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!

Word of mouth is our best advertisement! Thank you.



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!



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



This makes teaching contractions so much easier. Thank you

Laurie M


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.

Have you see our blog article on Auditory Processing Disorder? You may find helpful information there.

Let us know if we can help in any way.

Lori H


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



Thank you for the great ideas!



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!

Let us know if we can help you with placement, or any thing else.

Lee Ann


Wow. This is really helpful.

stacey michals


i love contractions! this is a great method!



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

Shanna Saleh


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



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

It’s great to hear that. Thank you for sharing.



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

I know this method has made a great impact on my kids. So helpful.

Colleen McFiggins


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

:D Your/you’re is pretty bad, but I find there/their/they’re and its/it’s equally irritating. I tell my kids that if they can master these three bothersome groupings, they will be doing very well indeed.

Kristina Best


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



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.

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!

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.



Great idea!



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

Jennifer G.


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



Thanks for the list and the advice!



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



We haven’t even started contractions.

Michelle Kaufman


This is great info! Thank you!!

Terri Duncan


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



Thanks Marie! This will help lots in our house.

Lucy Chaves


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



Very useful info – thanks!



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

Rita McKenzie


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!

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 (support@allaboutlearningpress.com) 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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