Do you like teaching capitalization rules ? No? Try this! First, teach the big capitalization rule. Then spend some time with each little rule. Engage your students with thumbs-up and thumbs-down practice. A slow and steady approach really works.
Ms. Sneed’s Kids Won’t Use Capitalization Rules
Our favorite fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sneed, held her head in her hands. Her elbows rested on a stack of geography tests. “Why?” she moaned. “Why won’t they capitalize the names of oceans?”
That was just the tip of the iceberg. For weeks, Ms. Sneed had noticed lack of capitalization.
Suddenly, the teacher stood up and walked to her computer. “I’m going to take care of this once and for all.”
As she searched, her eyes fell on a comprehensive capitalization unit. With just a few clicks, she downloaded it.
Ms. Sneed Begins Teaching Capitalization Rules
The next day, Ms. Sneed got started. “Can anyone tell me which words we capitalize?” she asked her class.
Surprisingly, almost every hand in the class shot up. A boy with glasses called out, “The names of people, places, and things!”
“That’s right. We capitalize proper nouns. And what parts of names don’t we capitalize?” she asked. No hands went up. Ms. Sneed had her starting point.
Parts of Speech Are Important When Teaching Capitalization Rules
Over the next few weeks, kids in Ms. Sneed’s class studied parts of speech. After all, their teacher knew that we don’t capitalize articles, coordinating conjunctions, or short prepositions.
Finally, Ms. Sneed was ready to polish her students’ skills. Over the course of the year, she spent time on each of these specific situations for capitalization.
In this set, kids learned to capitalize days of the week and the month. However, they did not capitalize words like “day” and “month.” This reinforced the difference between common and proper nouns.
Brands & Products
Next, students learned about capitalizing names of companies and products. However, they also learned not to capitalize conjunctions or common names of products (e.g., Ben and Jerry’s ice cream).
Now Ms. Sneed’s students worked on capitalizing names of places. At first, it seemed easy. But then they realized that you should not capitalize articles or short prepositions (for example, the United States of America).
Some languages don’t capitalize proper adjectives. However, in English, adjectives formed from proper nouns are capitalized (for example, English).
The rule for capitalizing relatives’ names was tricky for Ms. Sneed’s students. When used in place of name, words like Mom and Grandpa are capitalized. However, when not replacing a name, they are not.
Unfortunately, Ms. Sneed had trouble teaching her students about capitalizing rooms. It took some convincing to get them to believe that “living room” was not the actual name of a room. In the end, she had to discriminate between common and proper nouns. After all, a living room can be found in many homes.
Fortunately, teaching kids to capitalize direct quotes was easy. When quoting, the original sentence keeps its original capitalization. As time went on, they also used comic strips to punctuate dialogue.
Languages and Groups
Next up was capitalizing languages and groups. Like proper adjectives, names of languages are capitalized in English – but not in some other languages. Names of groups are also capitalized. But once again, not articles, conjunctions, or short prepositions.
By the time Ms. Sneed’s kids got to capitalizing titles, they knew not to capitalize articles, conjunctions, and short prepositions. They also learned that the first and last words in a title are capitalized, as well as the word after a colon.
Capitalizing holidays was easy. (However, some kids joked that they thought “my birthday” should be capitalized. After all, it was an important holiday to them.
Time Periods & Events
Actually, capitalizing time periods and events had some exceptions. Decades and centuries are not capitalized. However, well-known nicknames like the Roaring Twenties are.
Ms. Sneed was fine with teaching kids to capitalize celestial objects. However, our own planet, moon, and star gave her trouble. The MLA says that these names should not be capitalized if preceded by “the.” The Associated Press says to capitalize Earth but not sun or moon. Finally, she decided to follow NASA’s style guide and capitalize them all when referring to an object in space.
Documents & Laws
By the time Ms. Sneed’s kids got to the set on capitalizing documents and laws, they were pros. Once again, they capitalized everything except articles, conjunctions, and short prepositions.
What Not to Capitalize
Sure enough, there were even more exceptions when teaching capitalization rules. Ms. Sneed found herself teaching what not to capitalize. The names of directions, elements, types of animals and plants, diseases and illnesses, and seasons are not capitalized in English. In the end, the students realized that they had to memorize these situations.
Teaching Capitalization Rules – Traditional Resources
When she began teaching capitalization rules, Ms. Sneed used traditional resources. Each week she began with a slideshow. After direct instruction, a series of terms appeared on the screen. Students put thumbs up if the term was capitalized correctly. If they thought it was wrong, their thumbs went down. Instant formative assessment! (And the kids really got in the action.)
Over the course of the week, Ms. Sneed followed up with capitalization worksheets and activities.
Teaching Capitalization Rules – Digital Resources
When the pandemic began, Ms. Sneed began teaching capitalization rules virtually. Fortunately, she found Made-for-Easel capitalization activities. Sure, they get her through the pandemic. But when it was over, she found that her students loved to work on the skills independently.
Like the slideshow, each module began with direct instruction.
Next, they practice with five thumbs-up/thumbs-down activities. This provides great guided practice.
As kids practice with two more interactive digital activities, they move toward mastery. The final activity could be used for a classroom grade.
Both approaches worked well for Ms. Sneed. As expected, students began capitalizing appropriately. Furthermore, when her kids understood these grammar rules, they were much more successful on their daily language. But an unexpected thing happened too: Ms. Sneed found that she actually enjoyed teaching a boring subject. Her eyes twinkled at the thought.