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5 Tips for Teaching & Learning Nouns From Language Lady

#1

 

Nouns Are Not the “Simplest” Parts of Speech

Kids from second grade on can often tell you that a noun is a “person, place, thing, or idea.” We tend to think that nouns are “easy.”  However, that simply isn’t true. Nouns are one of the most difficult parts of speech to spot because nouns act like other parts of speech all the time.

Look at these “nouns” that are acting, either directly or with suffixes added, like other parts of speech:

Noun                                  Verb                                   Describer
Taking a walk…         I walk down the road.            Walking stick
Set the table.            Let’s table that for later.        Table tennis
She is a beauty.       Beautify our yard.                 Beauty pageant

#2

 

Nouns Are Often Preceded by Noun Markers (Articles)

Because of the difficulty in recognizing nouns, I focus my noun teaching on helping students recognize words that tell them that a noun is coming. One category of words that tells us that a noun is coming is the noun marker or article. (I like to call them noun markers because the name tells what they do—they mark nouns, or tell you that a noun is coming.) While a noun marker doesn’t necessarily mean that a noun is the next word up, it does mean that one is coming soon.

Thus, learning to recognize these three little words is super helpful. You can use my rhyme if you’d like. (Oh, and notice the order….when you have a and an together, and you have the word and between them, students think AND is a noun marker.)

              An, the, a….three little words…

            Tell you that a noun is about to be heard.

#3

 

A Preposition Tells You That a Noun Might Be Coming Soon

The next category of words that indicates that a noun might be coming soon is the preposition. The preposition is the first word of a phrase (group of words that is not a sentence) known as a prepositional phrase. A prepositional phrase begins with a preposition and ends with the object of the preposition. That is where nouns come in: The object of a preposition is usually a noun (to the STORE) or pronoun (to HIM).

Thus, a preposition tells us that a noun might be coming soon. Since my students (my personal ones and those using my books) learn prepositions early and often, it is a natural step to teach that when you see a preposition, a word or two or three over will either be a noun or pronoun: INTO the river; OVER the rickety, dangerous bridge.

#4

 

An Adjective Tells You That a Noun Might Be Coming

An adjective is a describer that tells you something about a noun or pronoun. It describes a noun when it comes before a noun (the KIND lady). It describes a pronoun when it is a predicate adjective—an adjective in the predicate part of the sentence (the second half of the sentence) that describes something in the first part of the sentence. Predicate adjectives can describe nouns (The boy is STUDIOUS—studious describes boy) and pronouns (He is STUDIOUS—studious describes he).

Some handbooks consider possessives, articles, and clarifying words to be adjectives. Regardless of whether you learned it this way or not, descriptive adjectives should be taught as signaling words for nouns. Students can learn quickly that when they see a descriptive adjective, a noun will usually be following. An adjective tells us that a noun is coming right away (pretty DAY) or that a noun is coming in a little bit (in the case of two or more adjectives in a row—the noun isn’t necessarily right after the first adjective): pretty, warm, sunny DAY).

#5

 

A Possessive Tells You That a Noun Might Be Coming

As mentioned previously, some protocols teach that a possessive noun (Donna’s) or possessive pronoun (her, its, our) is an adjective. Regardless of how you classify possessives, they tell you that a noun could be coming next (or soon, if there is a describer between the possessive and the noun. Thus, I teach my students that possessives OWN (or possess) something (often a noun). This could happen right away: It is HER bike. Or it could happen after a possessive and some describers: That is Donna’s pretty, smooth pen.

It might seem laborious to teach all of these types of “signals” for nouns. However, they are parts of speech that students learn in grammar and writing all of the time. So let’s teach all of the uses for them at that time and make finding nouns then matching nouns with their correct case of describers and even correct number of noun markers, etc., much easier. After testing my books with one hundred students a year for nearly twenty years, I am all about making concepts as easy as possible for our amazing students!

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