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Possessive Noun Practice for Middle School

Teachers are often looking for possessive noun practice for middle school students. It can be tricky, because possessive nouns are often confused with plurals. Apostrophes make that critical difference. Read on for information about what possessive nouns are, links to more possessive noun practice, and a few exercises students can practice on their own.

Defining a Possessive Noun

possessive noun shows possession of an object. Possessive nouns function as adjectives describing what possesses the subject. To pick out possessive nouns in a sentence, just look at the ending. If a noun ends in an apostrophe and the letter S, you've found a possessive.

Plural possessive nouns that end in "s" just take an apostrophe, not another "s." For example:

The cheerleaders' practice was on Friday.

It's also okay to use an additional "s" after a singular noun that ends in "s" in order to turn it into a possessive noun. Look at the following examples:

Jesus's followers are called Christians.

Jesus' followers are called Christians.

Technically, both versions are acceptable. Which version you choose depends on personal preference. If you feel the word sounds awkward with the extra "s" after the apostrophe, you can leave it off.

Possessive Noun Practice Exercises

The best possessive noun practice for middle school students is to have them complete possessive noun activities, either individually or as part of a group.

Individual Assignments

When giving individual assignments, it's a good idea to keep specific results private. Quizzes and written activities are ideal.

  • When you're just introducing the concept of possessive nouns, start with a written quiz on parts of speech. Have them label all the words in a given sentence with the appropriate part. When everyone's done, write "Jason's" (or the possessive noun of your choice) on the board. They've all seen that kind of word. But what part of speech is it? Let students answer, then explain its complex nature.

  • When all of your students seem to have a good handle on the plural/possessive distinction, it's time to get tricky. Assign a quiz where all punctuation has been removed from a few simple sentences. Then, ask your students to add in the correct punctuation. Salt liberally with plurals and possessives.

Small Group Activities

Breaking into groups, especially in small classes where students know each other well, can take some of the pressure off exploring a new idea.

  • Hand out newspaper or magazine articles. Break into groups. Then, have them circle plurals and underline possessive nouns.

  • This one's a bit raucous. Split the class in half. One group is Team Plural, and the other group is Team Possessive. Start with a simple sentence containing one or the other, and let the relevant team yell it out. Give points for correct responses and deduct points for incorrect answers. The first team to reach 10 points wins.

Whole Class Activities

Whole class activities involve all the students and, properly handled, avoid singling anyone out for possible embarrassment. That makes them a great match for tricky propositions like the distinction between plural and possessive.

  • Do a group activity. Write a sentence on the board (or otherwise show it to the whole class) and take a vote - plural or possessive? If the majority gets it right, write another, more challenging sentence. Keep going until you hit your class's limit. You can also introduce plural possessive nouns.

  • Ask students to volunteer for an activity. When one steps up, flip a coin in secret. Depending on the result, have them write either a sentence with a possessive or one with a plural. Ask for raised hands from the class, and choose a student to state whether the sentence has a plural or a possessive noun. If they get it right, they get to write the next sentence.

Possessive Nouns vs. Plurals

Here are a few more examples that contain possessive nouns:

  • Susan's brother is a very nice man.

  • I like Lizzie's recipe for cupcakes - they are so tasty!

  • My sister's sneakers are really stinky.

  • Under the dim moonlight, I can see the tree's shadow on the ground.

  • Unlike your mom's lasagna, my vegan sister's lasagna contains no meat.

Now, can you tell what's wrong with the following nouns?

  • Andrews baseball hat is blue.

  • The suns rays are very warm.

  • This hamburgers bun is covered in sesame seeds.

  • The red car is Nicoles.

  • Don't forget your cousins backpack by the door.

These nouns are all supposed to be possessive nouns, but they're missing apostrophes between the end of the noun and the "s." This makes them look like plural nouns instead of possessive nouns.

What's amiss with these?

  • I like chocolate's that have cherries in the middle.

  • Bagel's are very tasty with cream cheese on top.

  • I went to the movie's yesterday to see a thriller.

  • The 1980's had some great music.

  • I prefer Reebok's over Nike's.

These are not possessive nouns. They're plural nouns. To correct the sentences, be sure to take out the apostrophe between the noun and the "s."

Possessive, Plural and You

As with all things, the first step to teaching a subject is to understand it. We hope that our refresher on possessives and plurals has helped. For more content suited to students, try the following sites for games, quizzes and worksheets:

  • SoftSchools.com offers a quiz about possessive nouns.

  • At WorksheetWorks, you can create your own worksheet for simple nouns as well as multi-word nouns with plurals. Create worksheets that require students to rewrite phrases into the possessive form of the noun.

Better yet, stay here with us! YourDictionary has a possessive noun quiz and possessive noun worksheets that can be used to test students' knowledge.

Possessive Noun Practice for Middle SchoolPossessive Noun Practice for Middle School

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