Do your students put an apostrophe in it’s, whether it’s needed or not?  Do they even know whether to put an apostrophe in theirs or yours?  Try this word sort to get them to think about possessive pronouns.


  1. Introduce the word sort by reminding students that there are only two places that apostrophes are used:  to replace letters in a contraction or to show ownership (we call that “possessive”)  But not all possessives need apostrophes.
  2. In the attached there are a number of possessive words (highlighted for reader convenience!), some with apostrophes and some without.  Have students read the paragraph (or read it to them, if you feel readability is an issue).  Then sort all the highlighted possessives according to whether they have an apostrophe or not.
  3. Talk about what all the words in each list have in common, especially the list without apostrophes.
  4. Invite students to work in pairs to generate a “rule” or generalization about what kinds of words need an apostrophe to make them show possession.
  5. Give students a “test” by dictating additional possessive words.
  6. This is one generalization that doesn’t have exceptions! And students are more likely to remember it because they constructed the rule themselves.  However, you might remind them to think of an anchor word like his, which is rarely, if ever, misspelled.
For Jessica’s birthday, she received a brand new set of pencil crayons. But when she took them to school, they got all mixed in with the other kids’ pencils. Jessica tried to sort them out. “This yellow one is yours, Haley. And I think the green one is his,” she said, pointing at Kelly’s desk. “Why don’t we just put ours together in one tub?” said Hailey.
Jessica went to sharpen her pencils, but the more she sharpened, the smaller her pencils became. “The pencil sharpener is eating my pencil crayons!” she grumbled. “Now they are the sharpener’s pencils. I guess they are its lunch.”
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