Teaching possessive adjectives and pronouns
A teacher asked me for ideas to teach students the possessive adjectives and pronouns. His students have problems understanding them and they mix them up all the time.
What are they?
Possessive Adjectives are my, your, his, her, its, our and their.
Possessive Pronouns are mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours and theirs.
A possessive adjective is not used alone. It’s my book.
A possessive pronoun can be used alone. It’s mine.
A possessive adjective describes the noun, so it comes with the noun, not alone.
It’s my book. You can’t just say « It’s my »
A possessive pronoun is used without the noun.
Who does this watch belong to? It’s hers.
It’s your problem, not mine.
Your problem – your is a possessive adjective, it describes the problem and is used with the noun, problem. Not mine – mine is a possessive pronoun – used without a noun.
Why is it confusing?
Often confusion with this sort of grammar is down to the fact that students have never actually grasped either set of possessives. For example are they able to recite the list of possessive adjectives from memory? My, your, his, her, its, our, their. If they cannot do that there is little wonder they mix the two sets up.
Drill game for possessive adjectives
First do some drill games on the possessive adjectives until students know them backwards. You could play Simon Says telling students to touch things in a selection of pictures. You need a picture of yourself, a man, a woman, an animal and a group of people. Demonstrate this first using these commands:
« Touch my hair. » Students touch your hair in the picture of you.
« Touch your hair. » Students touch their own hair.
« Touch her hair. » Students touch the woman’s hair in the picture.
« Touch his hair. » Students touch the man’s hair in the picture.
« Touch its tail. » Students touch the tail on the animal picture,
« Touch their hair. » Students touch the hair of the people in the group.
They need to touch the hair of more than one person at the same time. You might be able to do this with students in the class, but most people won't like others touching them, so it's safer to use pictures.
Repeat this but vary the things students are to touch and use Simon says: « Simon says touch his shoe. Simon says touch her bag. Simon says touch their body. Touch your hair. » Any student who touches his or her hair at that point loses a life.
Next put students into groups of four and have them play together with one of the students being Simon. If you don’t have enough pictures have each group quickly sketch a man, woman, baby, dog and group of two people using stick figures.
Drill game for possessive pronouns
Next drill the possessive pronouns. Write the list of possessive pronouns on the board. Students pass an object around in a circle. On passing the object the first student says « it’s mine ». The next student takes the object and passes it on, saying, « it’s yours ». The next student takes the object, passes it and says « it’s his ». Continue passing and working through the list on display. Students continue non-stop passing and working down the list of pronouns. As the game goes on, erase the first pronoun, "mine". Students must say that one from memory. Leave 'It's' on the board as a prompt.
Next erase "yours", leaving "It's" as a prompt again. Continue until all the pronouns are erased and students know them from memory.
Now play a game to mix the two together such as Joker from 176 English Language Games for Children. Instead of asking a question students take turns to create any sentence using the two types of pronoun.
Deal out half a pack of playing cards, including the jokers, to a small group of up to six students. The players must not look at their cards but place them face down on the table. Player 1 turns over a playing card from his or her pile and makes up a sentence using the two types of pronoun such as, « It’s my book, not yours ». If this sentence is correct, the card is taken out of the game. If it is incorrect, the card is placed in a pile in the middle of the group. Continue with player 2 creating a different sentence, such as « It’s your money, not mine ». When the joker turns up, the person who turned it over must collect all the discarded cards from the pile in the middle, unless he or she has just formed a sentence correctly, in which case the joker is taken out of the game. You may like to add in a couple of extra jokers from another pack for more action!
If you are teaching teens or adults, then you could play Typhoon along the same lines, or Grammar Drill. You could play Guess the Question using questions with the two pronouns, such as « Is she your girlfriend or mine? » « Are they our pens or hers? » (All those games are in this book of games and activities for teens and adults.)
Note: « Its » is rarely used as a possessive pronoun because « It’s its » sounds funny even though it’s correct grammatically. It’s more common to use « It’s the dog’s. »
All the best
Shelley Ann Vernon
Teaching English Games