Grade: Middle
Subject: Language

#1892. Teaching Correct Pronouns

Language, level: Middle
Posted Tue Aug 8 09:32:37 PDT 2000 by Linda D. Hardy (
John Dickinson High School, Wilmington, Delaware 19808
Materials Required: any list of sentences requiring pronoun choice
Activity Time: initial teaching:15 minutes follow-up:varied
Concepts Taught: Making correct pronoun choice without reference to the pronoun's case

In a sentence like this one

He smiled at Kay and (I me).

students often become confused as to the correct
answer. Many textbooks direct students to use the
nominative case pronoun if it's used as a subject,
or use an objective case pronoun otherwise. Stu-
dents who are not knowlegeable about parts of
speech have no recourse but to guess at an answer.

Instead, try this. Instruct students to look
right before or right after the pronoun choice for
one of these words: and, or, nor. That word will
connect a noun to the pronoun. Students are to use
their finger(s) to cover the conjunction and the
noun. Then they read the sentence; the pronoun
that sounds correct will be correct.
In the sentence above, students will cover the
words "Kay and." What remains is "He smiled at me."
"Me" is the correct answer.
I teach this very quickly and then move on to
directed practice of two or three items, such as
The director told (I me) and Dan to write more.
Sarah said that (her she)or Elaine would call.
Telling Captain John and (I me) about the
assignment was a mistake.
If the students seem comfortable, I ask them to
choose the right answer for three other items from
a worksheet. The entire lesson should take about
fifteen minutes.

Subsequent Lessons

1. As a review, a few days later I would pre-
sent the same worksheet and ask how to deal with
such sentences. I would have them tackle a more
difficult item:

She told neither (I me) nor Mary about the letter.

In this case, after covering up "nor Mary," the
student is left with "She told neither (I me) about
the letter." Obviously, another word has to be
omitted; the final sentence becomes "She told me
about the letter."
Another difficulty is caused by a sentence

Ron and (she her) were calling a friend.

I remind students that the sentence started with
two people who were calling; when "Ron and" were
covered up, suddenly one person was calling. It
is okay to use the "was" in place of the "were."

2. Teaching correctness with "between" needs
a special lesson. I say that you cannot be between
one thing; therefore, a new solution is needed. I
tell students to replace "between" with the word
"near," even if it doesn't make a lot of sense.
Then do the cover-up as usual.

Hurry! Sit between Jake and (I me).

Replace "between" with "near" and get

Hurry! Sit near Jake and (I me).

Then do the cover-up to get

Hurry! Sit near me.

After some practice, students begin to realize that
all correct answers are me, her, him, us, or them.

3. At some point during instruction, one or
more students will say that the correct answer
doesn't sound right. After a discussion of the
difference between what sounds right and what is
right, and after students have mastered the cover-
up method, I have them write out the whole sentence
with the correct answer to reinforce the sound of
the correct sentence.