Do some of your students still struggle when it comes to writing contractions in their own writing? Contractions are taught in the early grades, but for some reason, that sneaky apostrophe seems to confuse many 4th and 5th graders. It could possibly be because once it's taught in the early grades, it isn't revisited. It's a good idea to do some explicit teaching in the upper grades of when to use the apostrophe and where to properly place it in a contraction. Here you will find some quick, engaging, and effective contractions activities for upper elementary students.
Students in upper grades love to be read aloud to just as much as younger kids. For this reason, starting a grammar lesson with a book is a nice idea. It provides a quick review of the skill in a fun and entertaining way.
- If You Were a Contraction is a book about a family of pigs that interact through conversations that incorporate contractions. The pages include fact boxes that provide instructions such as "who is becomes who's." The end of the book includes a glossary, internet sites and index.
- I'm and Won't, They're and Don't: What's a Contraction? written by Brian Cleary is always a fan favorite amongst upper elementary students. Brian Cleary's books are usually short, fun, and to the point.
Another great option to introduce a lesson is to use a video. Two of my favorite websites to turn to when introducing a grammar skill are Brainpop and Flocabulary. My students absolutely love them, so it's a great way to engage them right away.
Videos are also great for students whose native language is not English. The visuals help them understand the concept.
These websites require that you have a subscription, but most school districts or schools have subscriptions set up for Brainpop. Flocabulary gives you a free trial membership you can sign up if you do not have access to it.
- Brainpop has a video that is less than 2 minutes long explaining what contractions are and giving examples. It also shows the words within a sentence and how to contract them. They also emphasize how it is heard more often in conversation because they are more casual. It also differentiates the difference between contractions and possessive nouns.
- Flocabulary is another site that has many grammar videos including one on contractions. This video is about 3 and a half minutes long.
Whole Group Lesson
Providing visuals for students is so important. It really helps out not just our visual learners, but also our students whose native language is something other than English. Providing them with posters, anchor charts, or interactive notebook activities can be extremely effective.
You can post visuals up on your classroom walls or display them on the whiteboard as you teach the concepts. Students can then copy the information into their journals or you can provide them with mini anchor charts that they can glue into their interactive journals.
(You can grab this free anchor chart by clicking on the image below.)
Provide Practice Activities
Giving students the opportunity to practice the skill is important. You can do a quick scaffolding activity whole group, or in cases such as these where the students just need a refresher, offering independent practice with immediate feedback works well.
There are three types of activities that have proven to be not only engaging but effective for independent practice.
1. Search and Hunt Games
This type of activity is one of my favorites. It can be used with any theme depending on of the time of the year you are reviewing the skill. In a nutshell, you write two words and a number on an item and have the students write the contraction on a recording sheet next to the number found on the item.
Here are some seasonal ideas:
- In the fall, write them on a leaf template. Spread them around the classroom and even on the floor. Students pick up the leaf, read the pair of words, and write the contraction on their recording sheet.
- In the winter, write the pair of words on white paper, crumble each one up, and have a snowball fight. After a few seconds, have everyone pick one up and record the answer. Continue for as many rounds as you'd like. At the end, review the answers.
- In the spring, fill some plastic eggs with pairs of words and number each egg. Hide them around the room or outside. Have students go searching for the eggs. Once they find it, they open it, read the pair of words, write it in their recording sheet, place the words back in the egg, and continue on to the next one.
2. Print and Fold Booklets
Students love the interactiveness of these print and fold booklets, and teachers love the ease of prepping them. Just print, hand out, and have the students fold them.
The booklets include an anchor chart in the front and interactive lessons inside. They then glue them into their notebooks, and they make great reference tools in the future.
3. Contraction Work Mats
Contraction work mats make an ideal first independent activity. These work mats are great center activities or scoot activities. Give students sentences (or words) placed in page protectors. Give students either elbow pasta, a dry erase marker, or Play-Doh, and have them insert the missing comma.
For centers, I place them in binders and have the students work on a binder.
As a scoot activity, I place on mat on each desk. Each student is given a few macaroni or Play-Doh pieces. They work at one mat for about 30-45 seconds, check their work, and then move on to the next mat once I signal them to do so.
4. Boom Cards
Boom Cards are digital task cards that are so easy to use. All you need is internet access and a link. Just provide the students with a link called a "fast pin," and students immediately start using the task cards on their device. The Boom Cards are self checking, and students must answer correctly to go on to the next slide.
Assessing Students Mastery
Many of the activities above can be used as informal assessments to see how students are mastering the skill.
If you are looking for more formal assessments, you can implement exit tickets just by writing a few sentences on the board. Then have students rewrite the sentences on Post-It notes or index cards and turn them in at the end class.
You can also use a standard based assessment. When you want to zone in on which contractions they are having trouble with, you can break down the contractions quiz into three assessments.
- am, is, are
- will, have, would
I hope these examples of some contractions activities for upper elementary classrooms has been helpful and will help bring so fun and joy while you revisit this skill.