English usually makes the distinction between one object an many objects, and learning to make this distinction clearly and smoothly is an important part of learning to speak the language. The distinction is usually made by adding an s, but there are exceptions like fox and foxes or man and men. Ultimately, plural nouns are learned by hearing and using them repeatedly until the use is automatic.
The basic activity associated with singular-plural skills is this: given a singular, supply the plural. This format works for in-class activities, homework and tests. Learning starts with the general rule--add "s" to the singular to get the plural. Then come the exceptions like when adding "s" makes pronunciation difficult--the plural of "fox" is "foxes" because "foxs" would be difficult to pronounce. Then learning extends through cases where the singular and plural are the same--like deer. Then comes the cases where English uses foreign rules like "man" and "men." In every case the skill to be taught is the same--given the singular form, supply the plural form.
Irregular Groups Activities
There are many irregular plurals in English and they form groups. This is the basis of several in-class, homework and testing activities. The teacher supplies one member of the group and the student responds with other members of the group. For example, there are several English plurals that form plurals like German plurals: with an "en" suffix. If the teacher says "man-men", a student might respond "child-children, woman-women and gentleman-gentlemen." Some other groups are the Latin plurals like focus-foci; the plurals that are just like the singular such as deer-deer and irregular animal plurals like goose-geese or mouse-mice. Depending on how you define the groups, some combinations may be in two different groups such as goose-geese. It is one of the irregular animal plurals, but it is also one of the group where "oo" goes to "ee" such as tooth-teeth and foot-feet. Knowing these groups will make it easier to memorize these irregular plurals.
Animal Grouping Activities
In 1486, Dame Juliana Barnes wrote a hunting guide called "The Book of Saint Albans" in which she gave fanciful and sometimes humorous names for groups of animals. These whimsical plurals have provided fun activities for students of English ever since. These plurals names include a parliament of owls, a pride of lions, a bouquet of pheasants, an army of ants, a flange of baboons, a leap of leopards and an exaltation of larks. Kids love the playful group names and remember them much more quickly than they remember other irregular plurals. These name are a real part of English and are just one of the things that make the English language unique.
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