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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 Reply

Julie

says:

Thank you. I love the hands-on learning for contractions with the folded paper.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Julie.

Karen Dunn

says:

Thank you for the resource

Mrs Anne Michele Downes

says:

Thank you, fabulous site

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome! Thank you!

k. gayatri

says:

i love this. thank you for sharing

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome!

Amy

says:

Thank you! Very generous of you. Great ideas.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Amy!

Ericka

says:

This is amazing! It’s great for visual learners :-)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Ericka! This activity is designed to with multisensory means so all learners benefit.

Nimasha

says:

Thank you…..

Jennifer C

says:

Thanks for sharing! I am working on contractions with my daughter right now, so these tips will be very helpful.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Jennifer! I have found that this activity goes a long way to making contractions easy to understand.

Dee

says:

Excellent resource…the best I’ve seen yet!

Divya

says:

you really have laid down them well, mam. This is an easy way to teach kids. Thank you for these wonderful activities. I will try these out for my students.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Divya! I hope this helps your students with this tricky concept and that they enjoy the activity.

Bhanu Aneja

says:

Thank you so much for the amazing resources

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Bhanu! I hope this is helpful for you and your student or students.

julius

says:

Thank you so much. The materials are of great help to me and my learners

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re very welcome, Julius. I’m glad these were helpful for you and your students.

star

says:

THIS WORK SOOOOO WELL MY CLASS LOVES IT

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great to hear, Star! I’m very happy to hear that it is working so well for your class.

Anne

says:

Very helpful information and easy to understand….thank you

Nanette

says:

You all = Y’all
For some reason, this contraction is misspelled even on official signs where I live!

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!