A noun names a person, place, thing, idea, quality or action. A possessive noun shows ownership by adding an apostrophe, an “s,” or both (e.g. the bicycle is Sue’s, not Mark’s). Possessive nouns can be either singular or plural.
Children already use possessive nouns and possessive pronouns in conversation by kindergarten and first grade. In second grade, students learn how to turn common and proper nouns into possessive nouns by adding ‘s (apostrophe and the letter s). This practice continues in third grade when students are expected to demonstrate proficiency in creating both singular and plural possessive nouns (e.g. my friend’s toy, my friends’ bikes).
Word study for possessive nouns should include examples that clearly show the difference between singular and plural usage of possessive nouns as well as spelling practice for possessive nouns and pronouns. Spend time practicing possessives that tend to be more confusing:
- Possessives of irregularly formed plural nouns (e.g. children’s, women’s, men’s). Show students that first they should write the plural form of the noun, and then add the apostrophe and the “s” to show ownership.
- Forming the possessives of nouns already ending in “s” (e.g. class and grass). To form the singular possessive, simply add the apostrophe following the final “s” (class’ and grass’). To form the plural possessives of these nouns, explain that first the nouns must be made plural (classes, grasses), then simply add an apostrophe to the end of the word (classes’, grasses’).
- Possessives vs. contractions. Many students confuse possessive pronouns with contractions because both use apostrophes, so word study should give students opportunities to distinguish between possessive pronouns and contractions. Here is a word list of Possessives vs. Contractions.
Common Core State Standards Related to Possessive Nouns
Use common, proper, and possessive nouns.
Use personal, possessive, and indefinite pronouns (e.g., I, me, my; they, them, their, anyone, everything).
Use an apostrophe to form contractions and frequently occurring possessives.
Form and use possessives.
Four Forms of Nouns – Animals: bird, birds, bird’s, birds’, dog, dogs, dog’s, dogs’
Four Forms of Nouns – Children: boy, boys, boy’s, boys’, girl, girls, girl’s, girls’
Four Forms of Nouns – Family: aunt, aunts, aunt’s, aunts’, uncle, uncles, uncle’s, uncles’
Four Forms of Nouns – Professions: doctor, doctors, doctor’s, doctors’, teacher, teachers, teacher’s, teachers’
Four Forms of Nouns – School: school, schools, school’s, schools’, class, classes, class’, classes’
Possessives vs. Contractions: its, it’s, who’s, whose, there’s, theirs, your, you’re
VocabularySpellingCity.com provides word lists, printables, and interactive games and activities that give students the opportunity to form and use possessive nouns and pronouns.
Try Word-O-Pillar with the Four Forms of Nouns – Animals list.