How to Teach Singular Possessive Nouns’ Rules Effectively

Wondering how to teach singular possessive nouns’ rules? It’s easy! Just take a clear, conceptual approach. First, have kids add ‘s to written words. Second, ask them to write the words then add ‘s. Third, let them apply the skill by writing phrases. When you take it slow and easy, it sticks!

how to teach singular possessive nouns

Ms. Sneed Teaches Singular Possessive Nouns’ Rules

Our favorite fourth grade teacher sat at the side table with her student teacher. “Let’s continue planning our ELA block. Next up, singular possessive nouns,” she said.

Mr. Grow wrinkled his brow. “Wait, are we splitting them from plural possessive nouns?”

“Yep. Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way. It’s important to teach them separately. Additionally, we teach them slowly. Methodically, really.”

“Okay, explain,” said the student teacher.

“In my time as a fourth grade teacher,” Ms. Sneed began, “I’ve learned that possessive nouns confuse kids. The rules are relatively simple. For all singular possessive nouns, add ‘s. For plural possessives, add to words beginning in s and ‘s to those that don’t.”

Mr. Grow nodded. “Okay.”

To his surprise, Ms. Sneed burst out laughing. “But there’s something incredibly confusing about all of those apostrophes and s‘s. Inevitably, kids start placing apostrophes before the s in plural nouns. They add only an apostrophe to singular nouns ending in s. It’s a hot mess.

“Anyway, I came up with a simple process to reduce the confusion.”

Begin by Sorting Out the Differences Between Singular, Plural, and Possessive

Ms. Sneed sighed deeply. “Tomorrow, you will teach this concept. To get you ready, I’ll explain the process. Some of this will seem babyish to you, but you’ve gotta believe me – it’s necessary.

“First, review the difference between singular and plural nouns. As a matter of fact, generating two lists will help them sort it out.

“Second, review the meaning of a possessive noun. You know, it shows ownership.

“Third, go back to your list of singular and plural nouns and discuss how they differ from possessive nouns. Hopefully, this will get their minds in the right spot.”

Begin Teaching Singular Possessive Nouns by Adding ‘s

Next, Ms. Sneed pulled out a list of singular nouns. Some ended in s, and some didn’t. “Now kids will use singular possessive nouns’ rules by adding ‘s.” She demonstrated by adding ‘s to a few of the printed words.

“Seriously?” Mr. Grow asked, snickering.

Ms. Sneed looked up at him. “Yep. Seriously. They just add ‘s to each of the words. In my experience, this is a necessary step. Sure, it’s super simple. But it shows kids that the entire word must be written before the punctuation. And it only takes a few minutes. Actually, this entire lesson doesn’t take long. However, I will admit that it has a lot of steps.”

Begin teaching singular possessive nouns' rules by asking kids to add 's to printed words. It seems silly, but this step helps them realize that the entire word must be written before the punctuation.
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Continue by Asking Kids to Write the Word Then Add ‘s

Now Ms. Sneed pulled out another list. On this one, nouns were listed in a column on the left-hand side of the page. “Next, they copy the word and add ‘s. Don’t forget: copy then add ‘s to form singular possessive nouns. Surprisingly, writing the word, pausing, and then writing the punctuation avoids a lot of trouble later.”

Mr. Grow smiled but remained silent. He was beginning to understand. Obviously, Ms. Sneed had a method to her madness.

When teaching singular possessive nouns, have kids copy the word first. Then ask them to add 's. This avoids confusion later.

Finally, Students Are Ready to Write Complete Singular Possessive Noun Terms

For the third time, Ms. Sneed pulled out a worksheet. “Now the kids will be ready to form phrases,” she said. “But there will be trouble.”

“What?” asked Mr. Grow. “How? I mean, they just add ‘s.”

Once again, Ms. Sneed burst out laughing. “Right. But to which word?”

Mr. Grow shook his head. “Who knew that teaching this skill could be so complicated?”

“For this part,” Ms. Sneed advised, “do plenty of modeling. Most kids will get it. But for those who don’t, you can provide a strategy. Just have them circle the owner. For example, if the term is ‘hat of boy,’ they circle boy. Then they write ‘boy’s hat.'”

Mr. Grow nodded. “Thank you. After hearing your explanation, I feel certain I would have bombed on my own. I feel ready to teach the concept now.”

“I’m sure you’ll do great,” Ms. Sneed replied. “As usual, I’ll be here for support.”

The student teacher looked relieved.

After kids understand that they add 's to form singular possessive nouns, they can practice with phrases.

Enjoy Teaching

“I always enjoy teaching singular possessive nouns’ rules,” Ms. Sneed said with a little smirk. “Until, of course, I teach plural possessive nouns. At that point, kids get confused, and the reteaching begin. With patience, though, they can master possessive nouns in just a few days.”

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