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How to Teach Contractions

Cartoon girl making contractions on a whiteboard

Would you like to help your child avoid some of the most common errors in written English? Today we’re talking about the misuse of contractions, especially when it comes to words like it’s vs. its and you’re vs. your.

You’ve probably seen these mistakes; maybe they’ve even made you cringe.

Giving your child a solid foundation in the way 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.

6 Ways to Teach Contractions

Teaching contractions might seem complicated, but these helpful tips can make this concept easy to teach!

  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 of contractions 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. 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. 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.

    Child holding paper with words 'I am'
    The student folds the word strip on the solid line to reveal the contraction, such as I’m.

    Child folding paper to form the contraction '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 excerpt

AAR Contractions

AAR Level 2, Lesson 27, Teacher’s Manual

AAR Level 2 Lesson 27 Activity Book excerpt

AAR “Fun with Contractions”

AAR Level 2, Lesson 27, activity sheet

Download Step 27 of All About Spelling Level 3 to see how we teach contractions in our spelling program.

AAS Level 2 Step 27 Teacher's Manual excerpt

AAS Contractions

AAS Level 3, Step 27, Teacher’s Maunal

Below is a list of contractions you can teach and practice with your child.

click to download your alphabetical list of contractions

Download and print this contractions list!

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


Six Ways We Make Spelling Easy Report

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Leave a Comment

GC

says:

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!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

GC,
You are welcome!

Barb

says:

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

Kristi

says:

This makes teaching contractions so much easier. Thank you

Laurie M

says:

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.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Laurie,
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

says:

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

Valentine

says:

Thank you for the great ideas!

Tammy

says:

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!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

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

Lee Ann

says:

Wow. This is really helpful.

stacey michals

says:

i love contractions! this is a great method!

Jessica

says:

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

Shanna Saleh

says:

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

Brandee

says:

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

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

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

Cristy

says:

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

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

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

Colleen McFiggins

says:

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

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Colleen,
: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

says:

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

Masie

says:

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.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

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.

Cherie

says:

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

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

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.

Rebekah

says:

Great idea!

Christine

says:

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

Kim

says:

Great tips!

Jennifer G.

says:

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

Cassie

says:

Thanks for the list and the advice!

Rosalie

says:

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

Charity

says:

We haven’t even started contractions.

Michelle Kaufman

says:

This is great info! Thank you!!

Terri Duncan

says:

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

Miranda

says:

Thanks Marie! This will help lots in our house.

Lucy Chaves

says:

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

Simone

says:

Very useful info – thanks!

Merlyka

says:

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

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!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

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 (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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