Teachers Guide to Pronouns

Quick test! What’s missing in the following paragraph?

“This article is about the importance of pronouns. This article will detail the some ways teachers can use pronouns. Also, this article will help teachers with teaching pronouns, and how pronouns can be used in a sentence. With this information from this article, the teacher will be able to teach pronouns effectively to students.”

Did that paragraph make sense? Did it read smoothly? The likelihood is that you answered “no” to both questions. And the reason is simple; it’s not utilizing an important device to make writing (and reading) less cumbersome.

The pronoun is the neglected ingredient. By definition, it is a part-of-speech that replaces nouns or other pronouns in a sentence. And, since it replaces nouns, it can serve as the subject or direct object in a sentence within a paragraph. Most importantly, it is a device that can prevent redundancies.

Types and Functions of Pronouns

Teachers need to know what pronouns are and how to use them. Luckily, this particular part-of-speech has a low word count (In other words, there are only a handful of words that will fall under this category).

On the other hand, these words can be placed in several sub-categories with secondary functions. A website from the University of Ottawa listed 10 forms of pronouns.  They are as follows:

1. Personal pronouns, which refers to specific person, thing, or idea.

2. Subjective Personal Pronouns replace subjects (I, You, He, She, They, We, It).

3. Objective Personal Pronouns act as objects of verbs, preposition, or infinitive phrases (Me, You, Her, Him, It, Us, and Them).

4. Possessive Personal Pronouns will indicate possession and ownership of an object or person (Mine, Yours, Hers, His, Its, Ours, and Theirs). They are similar to possessive adjectives such as “My”, “Her”, and “Their”.

5. Demonstrative Pronouns point and identify a noun or a pronoun (This, These, and That).

6. Interrogative Pronouns are used to ask questions (Who, Whom, Which, What, Whoever, Whichever, and Whatever).

7. Relative Pronouns link phrases or clauses (That, Which, Who, and Whom are often used)

8. Indefinite pronouns refer to an identifiable, but not specified, person or thing and conveys the idea of all, any, none, or some (All, Another, Any, Anybody, Anyone, Anything, Each, Everybody, Everyone, Everything, Few, Many Nobody, None, One, Several, Some, Somebody, and Someone).

9. Reflective Pronouns refer back to the subject (myself, yourself, herself, himself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves). 

10. Intensive pronouns use the similar words associated with reflective pronouns, but will emphasis its antecedent. (i.e. “I myself will go”; “the boy himself ate the donut”).

Teaching Pronouns

The rules can be daunting and lead to a week or two worth of lessons just to understand the various forms and usage.

However, the goal to teaching pronouns – as well as any other part-of-speech – is to get students to use it properly, and to understand when to use it. 

There are several methods that can help. Cloze Reading comes to mind. This lesson presents two or three sentences or a paragraph with missing words. The first part of the sentence – or the first sentence in the paragraph – will give a clue to the pronouns that needs to be placed in the missing spots.

Here is one example : “Johnny went to the mall. ____ wanted to buy new clothing.”

Another method is to present a paragraph – such as the one that started this article – and have the students change all the repetitious words with the appropriate pronouns (as a teacher, you may want to supply a word bank with pronouns). The lesson goes beyond replacing words. It gets students to edit their own work. Also, it helps to reinforce lessons in the use of pronouns.

With that in mind, another way a teacher can get students to learn pronoun usage is to get them to practice it. Warm-up activities, writing prompts, journal assignments and other daily assignments can help.

Finally, and most importantly, the teacher needs to model the appropriate usage of it. This way, students can see how it is used and when it should be used. This can be done through note-taking procedures and other activities.

Pronouns make reading text simple and smooth. Without it, small paragraphs can feel like three-page essays. Also, it makes writing easier. It eliminates wordiness and the constant need to name the person, place or things that were already mentioned in the first paragraph or part of the sentence.

It is important and useful. And by this point, its name doesn’t have to be repeated.