Tips for Teaching Possessive Tense – Child1st Publications

Tips for Teaching Possessive Tense

Possessive tense can be very confusing for young children. My students had a terrible time distinguishing between possessive and the plural form of a word. "Boys vs. boy’s," "houses vs. house’s," "Moms vs. Mom’s" proved to be too much for their tender brains. Just telling the kids to use an apostrophe for possession didn’t cut it either for some reason. Oh, that’s right. Just telling a child a rule to remember doesn’t work a lot of the time. A child would think, “I remember you are supposed to use the apostrophe for one of them, but I can’t remember which!”

That’s when we resort to our little list of rules:

  1. Use a story to explain elements of learning
  2. Relate each part of the lesson to known objects
  3. Act it out whenever possible
  4. Practice being light

Plural Means…

…More than one. Show the children a visual that shows the plural of a word. In our example, we are showing what “boys” and “Moms” mean (more than one of them). Our visual shows four boys and three moms.


Teaching plural and possessive with images


Possessive Means…

…Belonging. In our visual, we see a boy and a dog. The word is “boy’s” and the boy’s arm reaching toward the dog is the visual for the apostrophe. In the second instance, Mom’s arm represents the visual for the apostrophe as well.


teaching possessive tense using images

Act It Out

Have each child find something to “possess.” If Rosanna picks up a doll, she will say, “This is Rosanna’s doll.” Her arm would be around the doll showing she possesses the doll. If you have three children, you could put the doll on the rug and have one child pick it up as though finding it laying there lost. He would ask, “Whose doll is this?” One of the other children would answer, “It’s Rosanna’s doll.” Then the child who found the doll would give it to Rosanna who would wrap her arm around it, showing it belonged to her.

One Sticking Point

It gets a bit tricky when it comes to “its” and “it’s.” In this case, “its” shows possession, while “it’s” is a contraction of “it” and “is.” A clue to share with the kids is that when reading the sentence, if it makes sense to change “it’s” to “it is,” then they are dealing with a contraction.

Example: “Look, it’s Tom!” or “The dog hurt its foot.” It makes perfect sense to say “It is Tom” but it doesn’t make sense to say “The dog hurt it is foot.”

Play a Game

To let children practice writing the possessive, write the names of the children in the class on the board, or if the names are displayed on the word wall, instruct the class to choose the name of a classmate, and then choose an object that will belong to that person. They can write “Jane’s bear” and illustrate it. Next they will choose another name and another object to write and illustrate. Depending on the amount of time you have, children could cut pictures of objects out of old magazines and use them in their illustrations.


Teaching possessives

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