Children begin learning the parts of speech as early as kindergarten, beginning with nouns, verbs and then the other six as they progress through elementary school. In middle school, teachers reinforce skills through textbook assignments and worksheets. However, the focus begins to shift from teaching grammar in isolation to identifying parts of speech while writing. Knowing these basics of sentence structure helps students become better readers and writers.
A noun is a person, place, thing or idea. There are many types of nouns, but they are usually classified as concrete, abstract, common and proper. Nouns can function as the subject, direct object, indirect object or object of the preposition. The key to identifying a noun is remembering that it has to be a word that represents a thing like "brush," a place as in "Paris," a person such as "Mom" or an idea like "love."
Verbs are action words. If a word represents something that a noun can do, it is a verb. Many times verbs are actions that can be seen, like playing, running, writing and singing. However, actions that can't be seen -- like thinking, loving and hating -- are also verbs. To identify a verb, the student should ask himself, "What is the subject of this sentence doing?"
Adjectives answer such questions about a noun as "how much?", "what kind?" and how many?". Adjectives are specific, descriptive words that inform the reader about nouns. To identify an adjective, students have to find the noun first, then ask themselves if there are any words in the sentence that tell more about the noun. Key words to look for are numbers, colors, and sizes. For example, in the sentence "Mary has three pink dresses", the words "three" and "pink" modify the noun "dresses."
Adverbs are a little more complex, because they modify, or describe several parts of speech. Adverbs answer questions like "how?", "when?" and "where?" about verbs, adjectives and other adverbs. Students need to look for words that end in "ly" like "slowly" and "quickly." These words describe how something was done. The words "very," and "really" are adverbs that describe the extent or degree of an adjective or adverb as in "very hungry" or "really quickly."
Pronouns are substitute nouns. They take the place of a noun in a sentence. Middle school students probably already know the benefits of using pronouns in their writing. Pronouns prevent writers from repeating the names of people, places and things. They also help make reading a smoother process. Like nouns, pronouns are singular, plural and possessive. Pronouns are not hard to identify. They will usually follow a noun in the same or next sentence. Commonly used pronouns are "she", "he", "I", "it" and "me."
Prepositions are defined as words that show the relationship between a noun or pronoun and other words in a sentence. That explanation can be confusing for middle school students. It might be easier for them to identify prepositions if they understand that they are positional words. Teachers sometimes tell their students to look for words that tell where a squirrel can go in a tree. For example, he can go under, over, below, beside, to and in a tree. This simplified explanation will help students become comfortable identifying prepositions and their objects, which are nouns.
Middle school students will probably not find it difficult to identify conjunctions. These are words that connect sentences or clauses. The most common conjunctions are "and," "or," and "but."
Interjections are words used to express a variety of emotions and are grammatically independent of other words in a sentence. Examples of interjections are "oh," "ouch," "hmm," "wow" and "whee". Interjections can function as one-word sentences and are often accompanied by an exclamation mark. For instance: "Wow! What a view." Interjections that express milder feelings are sometimes separated by a comma, as in this sentence: "Oh, I had no idea there was a test today."
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