I truly believe that conversation is one of the most effective ways of teaching new concepts. And by conversation, I mean real conversation, not scripted conversation.
When I suggest conversations, then, I do not mean for you to follow them word for word. I want you to engage with your student — personally. All I’m offering here is a sort of a model, to help you imagine what it could be like to have a conversation about this sort of subject.
For this conversation, I like to lead with the binder card. Here it is:
I point to the apostrophe in Mom’s. “Do you know what this is?”
“Well, let’s think about it. What does this word say?” We read it together.
“Now I’m going to use it in a sentence: ‘Don’t touch that cup. That cup is Mom’s.'”
True story. They don’t usually say anything about this.
“What do you think this word means?”
Don’t be discouraged. They’re thinking, and most of them won’t figure it out on their own.
“Who does the cup belong to?” I ask.
“Mom,” he answers.
“That’s right! Mom! The cup is — whose cup is it?”
“Yes! Do you see how you added the s on the end there? You said it was Mom‘s cup.” (Really make that s loud when you say something like this.)
“If the cup belongs to Dad, whose cup is it?”
“Yep! There’s that s on the end again.” When he says “Dad’s,” I point at the word on the card.
“If the cup belongs to the dog, whose cup is it?”
“The dog’s.” Again, I point when he says it.
“That’s right! We almost always add an s on the end to tell us when something belongs to someone. Now, what if we wrote it like this?” And I write on scratch paper moms. “What does this word mean?”
Here I get a variety of answers. Some students say that it belongs to Mom, and others say they don’t know. Only rarely does a gifted student tell me that it means there is more than one mom.
So I write out these sentences: Jill and I went. Our moms went. “What does this word mean?” and I point at moms in the sentence.
Usually now they say there are two moms.
“Yes! That’s right!” Now here is the clincher. I refocus them on the binder card for this lesson. I point at one of the apostrophes. “What do you think this is for?”
They aren’t sure. They might not know. They might be afraid to venture a guess.
“Well, here” — and I point at moms in the sentences I wrote out on paper — “you said that this means there are two moms. There is more than one mom. So we added an s on the end, right? And over here” — and I point at the Mom’s on the binder card — “if I added an s all by itself on the end, wouldn’t that mean the same thing?”
He nods. He gets it!
“So what do you think this thing is for?”
“To tell us that it means something else?”
“That’s right! It tells us that the cup — or whatever it is — belongs to Mom. It is Mom’s cup. That little line thingie is called an apostrophe. Can you say apostrophe?”
“Good. And can you remember what it is for?”
“To tell us it belongs to Mom?”
“Right! And we use it whenever something belongs to someone, so that is why we can also say Dad’s or dog’s.”
And so on and so forth. Use your discretion and simply try to have an intelligent conversation with the child.
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