Common nouns and proper nouns are one of those grammar standards that we usually review with our upper elementary students at the start of the school year. I've always found it so intriguing how students seem to forget many of these grammar terms even after hearing them multiple times in previous years. Luckily, we can usually move those "files" from the back of their brains to the front once again quickly.
In this post, you will find some engaging activities for common and proper nouns that will help you do just that.
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Begin with a Read Aloud or a Video
Reading a picture book or showing a video is always an easy and engaging way to start off a lesson. Although finding videos or picture books for upper elementary students when reviewing lower grade standards can be challenging, it is definitely possible.
A book that I found that pairs nicely as a reintroduction to common and proper nouns is A Lime, a Mime, a Pool of Slime by Brian P. Cleary. This book focuses on common, proper, and even touches on abstract nouns. The nouns are written in a large colored font. It allows them to stand out so you can quickly showcase the difference between the (lowercase) common nouns and the (capitalized) proper nouns.
Whole Group Common and Proper Nouns Lesson
It's always a good idea to have students gather notes to keep inside of their notebook. This allows them to quickly reference back if they ever forget a skill or standard.
Because this a review standard, notes and explanations should be quick, but don't skip out on it. Trust me when I say that some students will need a refresher again later in the school year. A quick reference into their notebooks and that 'brain file' returns right back to the front of their brain.
With any grammar concept, it is a good idea to show definitions and examples to the students. In this case, since it is a review skill, a simple discussion and a few notes will do the trick. You can also display posters in your classroom or use them as a guide for notetaking.
(If you'd like a set of common and proper nouns posters sent to your inbox to use during your own lesson, you can sign up below.)
Another one of the common and proper nouns activities that I love to use with my students is a print and fold grammar booklet. They are low prep and offer high engagement.
We use the cover page as the 'notes' and students highlight keywords instead of having to write down notes in their notebook. This saves us valuable minutes in the classroom especially when discussed previously taught skills. These booklets are then used as part of the students independent practice.
Provide Practice Opportunities
- Thumbs UP/Thumbs DOWN 👍🏽👎🏻
In this activity, you display or call out different nouns. If the noun is a common noun, students put their thumbs down. If the noun is a proper noun, students put their thumbs up.
- Gallery Walk
- Task Cards
Have students practice identifying the correct common and proper nouns using task cards or Boom Cards. I absolutely LOVE assigning digital task cards because they are no prep and self-checking.
Assessing Students' Understanding
- Dictating sentences to students and having them write them down. Check to make sure they have capitalized proper nouns.
- Providing them with a printable or digital quiz. I usually like to use a standard based quick check assessment that I can use to record and easily document.
- Continue to monitor students' writing, particularly those that you know have previously had difficulty capitalizing proper nouns.