Pronouns & Antecedents Activities for Elementary Students

Call students to the board to correct errors in pronoun use.
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Pronouns are words that take the place of nouns. At their first introduction, they seem easy enough to master for most elementary students. However, at times there can be some complex issues where pronoun usage can get tricky. Spending a little extra time focusing on these issues in elementary school can help your students master the pronoun rules.

1 Pronoun Picture Labels

Core curriculum objectives require students to use personal, possessive and indefinite pronouns beginning in first grade. This activity using body movement reinforces cognitive learning in young students. Keep a large supply of pictures cut from magazines. Give each child a piece of cardstock on which you have written one of the following pronouns: he, she, it, his, hers, her, she, he, they, them. Tape the cardstock pronouns on each child’s chest. Hold up one of the magazine pictures from your supply, telling students to look for possible antecedents. Students whose pronoun can take the place of one of the antecedents in the picture should stand up. For instance, if you hold up a picture of a girl fishing with her father, students labeled “he,” “she,” “him,” “her,” “hers,” “his,” “they” and “them” could all stand. Alternatively, hand pictures out to students and have them write complete sentences about the pictures using no pronouns. Have them switch papers with a classmate to rewrite the sentences using pronouns.

Vocabulary Builder

2 Pronoun Choice Buzz Game

Create several strips with sentences that contain pronouns. Use grade-appropriate vocabulary and complexity. However, when you write the pronoun, give two choices, such as “One of the students forgot (their / his or her) lunch. Divide the class into two teams. Set up a table at the front of the room. On each side of the table, place a buzzer or a bell. Call one player from each team to the front of the room to stand in front of each buzzer. Reveal the sentence strip and have the students ring the buzzer as soon as they think they know which pronoun is correct. Call on the student who rang the buzzer first. If he or she answers correctly, that team wins a point. Play until all students have had a turn at the buzzer.

3 Identifying Pronouns in Context

Students in all grades will benefit from this activity. Using grade-level readers, tell students to choose one of their current reading assignments to use to complete this activity. It could be a page from a textbook, a current literature requirement, or even a newspaper or magazine article. Then take a piece of paper and fold it in half. To make the assignment more interesting, use something other than standard notebook paper, like construction paper, or legal-sized paper. Label one column “pronouns” and the other “antecedents.” Read the selected page, and list all the pronouns you can find along with their antecedents.

4 What Is Wrong With This Sentence?

Students in grades three and up should be given consistent practice recognizing correct pronoun-antecedent agreement. Write sentences on the board containing pronoun-antecedent agreement errors. The sentences could include errors in number (“A student left their lunch on the bus”) or gender (“My sister rode his bike to school”). Sentences can also cause problems with an ambiguous antecedent, such as this example: “The suitcase contained three shirts, two pair of pants and a dog bone. It belonged to my grandmother.” Call students up to the board to rewrite the sentences for correctness and clarity.

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.