Indefinite Pronoun Games

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Indefinite pronouns are pronouns that refer to something that is unspecific, for example: "someone" or "anything." In the English classroom, learning indefinite pronouns can get tricky. However, playing a few games can give students a better chance at mastering the concept. Robert Marzano, author of "The Art and Science of Teaching," says that students who play games in the classroom can gain up to 20 percentile points in achievement.

1 Speedy Memorization

One of the best ways students can master the indefinite pronouns is simply to memorize them. Once students have the list memorized, they will recognize them when writing and will be triggered to consider the rules concerning them. To challenge students to memorize the indefinite pronouns, have a speed contest. Set a timer and have students recite the list of indefinite pronouns as quickly as they can. Another fun way to get students to memorize is to have them write a rap song about the function of indefinite pronouns, being sure to include the list pronouns somewhere in the song.

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2 Singular or Plural Relay Race

One of the most challenging issues concerning indefinite pronouns is determining whether they are singular or plural. When students master this concept, they will also be able to make sure subjects and verbs agree in their sentences. Divide students into two teams and divide the board into two sections. On each section of the board, draw a chart with three columns labeled “singular,” “plural” and “singular or plural.” On “go,” have the first member from each team come up to the board and write one of the indefinite pronouns in its corresponding column and then pass off his piece of chalk to the next player, who in turn fills in another indefinite pronoun. Continue until teams feel they have exhausted the list.

3 Pronoun or Adjective?

Another confusing issue concerning indefinite pronouns is that they can sometimes be used as adjectives. For practice distinguishing between pronouns and adjectives, play this game. Make word cards for each of the indefinite pronouns. Use two different colors of card stock, each color signifying a different part of speech. For instance, words on yellow cards should be considered pronouns; words on blue cards should be considered adjectives. Place the word cards in a basket and pass the basket around the classroom. Have each student take a card and write a sentence using the indefinite pronoun as either a pronoun or adjective. For example, if a student picks a yellow card with the word “few” written on it, his sentence could read, “Few dare to attempt skydiving.” For a blue card, the student could write, “I had a few cookies for lunch.”

4 Writing with Indefinite Pronouns

Use picture prompts to inspire students to write sentences correctly using indefinite pronouns. Cut pictures from magazines and laminate. Pass out the pictures and tell students they must write a certain number of sentences about the picture, but the sentences must contain indefinite pronouns. For instance, if a student has a picture of people on the beach, he could write, "Someone threw a Frisbee, and a few tried to catch it. After that, everybody wanted to play." For older students, add challenges, such as writing a sentence that contains two indefinite pronouns and a prepositional phrase. Have students exchange pictures and sentences and discuss whether they used the pronouns correctly, paying special attention to subject-verb agreement and pronoun-antecedent agreement.

Debbie McCarson is a former English teacher and school business administrator. Her articles have appeared in "School Librarians’ Journal" and "The Encyclopedia of New Jersey." A South Jersey native, she is a regular contributor to "South Jersey MOM" magazine.