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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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Aisha

says:

Very nice..such a easier way to teach my kid..thanku

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Aisha!

Ally

says:

I really appreciate the contraction cards… what a great trick to teach my little guy! Thank you for making the world a little richer, by sharing a great teaching tool.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are so welcome, Ally! I’m glad you find this helpful.

Sudha Singhania

says:

Very nice

Neha

says:

Very useful information👍

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Neha!

Mansi Gupta

says:

This is very helpful. Thank you so much.

Suraiya

says:

Hi from Cape Town, South Africa. Thank you so much for the lovely way you make teaching contractions easier. Much appreciated.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m so glad this was helpful for you, Suraiya!

Marie

says:

I love how this site makes teaching contractions so much easier

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Glad this was helpful for you, Marie! 😊

frank

says:

Thanks a lot people.

Edgar Vasquez

says:

I just checked this Site for the first time and I love the way explains Contractions. Thank you for this wonderful site.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Edgar! 😊

Joan Oredola Fakunle

says:

I really appreciate the simplicity of explanation. My child got the contraction easily.

Bettie Sanchez

says:

I love this! So fun and exactly the visual help my students need. I am a special education resource teacher for grades k-5. Thanks!!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Bettie! Let me know if you need anything else.

Bettie Sanchez

says:

Your resources are amazing! I am a special education resource teacher and this will be so super helpful, especially through distance learning.

Aquila Matos

says:

Thank you for the free list of contractions. I printed one for each of my children and they have it posted in their rooms.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

What a great idea, Aquila!

amelia rainwater

says:

This is wonderful! Thank you!

Cyndianne Larvie

says:

Wow what a great concept for my son with Autism. Would love to give this a try and later donate it to his special needs classroom.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Cyndianne,
If you haven’t seen it already, I think you will find out Teaching Reading and Spelling to Children with Autism blog post helpful. Let me know if you have any questions or need anything.

Caci

says:

Your information is always so helpful!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Well, thank you, Caci! 😊 We do try very hard to be helpful and it’s nice to hear we succeed.

Sandie

says:

Thank you for the list of contractions! We are putting together an interactive notebook to help my son in his writing.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Sandie! I made something similar for my kids when they were younger and they found it helpful.

Angela

says:

Wow. I’ve done a lot of research and your reading and spelling programs come well recommended. I can see why. What a great post – not only for my 7 year old daughter but also for most my Facebook friends who seem to have forgotten!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Angela! I’m glad you found this helpful for your child and others. 😊

Indra Helmbrecht

says:

Very helpful information!

Robyn

says:

Awesome! Thank you.

Adzo Debanse Quarshie

says:

Very educative and helpful . Thank you.

Aniqa khan

says:

This is really helpful for me to teach my students.
Thank you for an amazing guidelines.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Aniqa. I’m glad this was helpful for you. Let me know if you need anything else.

Meg E.

says:

The paper strips are a great timesaver and help my pupils completely visualize what happens when we contract words. Thank you for another great download!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re so welcome, Meg! I’m glad these have helped your students visualize how contractions work.

farhat

says:

very very helpful and fun way to teach contractions

Heather

says:

These are great ideas!! Thank you!!

Red

says:

Very useful information, not only for my students, but for me as well. I wasn’t given much help with things like this in school… that and i didn’t think it was important at the time, so I will be able to use these tips to teach my kids the right way and also correct myself as well for future reference.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this information is useful and helpful for you and your students, Red. If you are ever looking for something specific, just ask.

AmyBeth Ball

says:

Great ideas! Can’t wait to try them

Terre D Lefler

says:

I love the folded paper idea. That really solidifies the lesson. Also, I find that understanding word meanings like contract also helps build understanding.

Gary Richards

says:

Excellent source for essential English lessons!

Antionette H

says:

This can be taught by having fun in everyday language

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