Learning Description

Apostrophes are so much fun – let’s learn about the apostrophe’s uses!  Students will collaborate in word tableaux, creating sentences of their own, to differentiate between the plural and possessive uses of apostrophes.


Learning Targets


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"I Can" Statements

“I Can…”

  • I can tell the difference between plural and possessive nouns and know when to use an apostrophe.

Essential Questions

  • How and when do we use apostrophes in plural and possessive nouns?


Georgia Standards

Curriculum Standards

Grade 2:  

ELAGSE2L2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.     c. Use an apostrophe to form contractions and frequently occurring possessives.

Grade 3:  

ELAGSE3L2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.   d. Form and use possessives.

Arts Standards

Grades 2 & 3: 

TA.PR.1 Act by communicating and sustaining roles in formal and informal environments.


South Carolina Standards

Curriculum Standards

Grade 2:  

ELA.L.5.2 Use apostrophes to form contractions and singular possessive nouns. 

Grade 3:  

ELA.L. 5.2 Use apostrophes to form contractions and singular and plural possessives.

Arts Standards

Anchor Standard 1: I can create scenes and write scripts using story elements and structure. 

Anchor Standard 3: I can act in improvised scenes and written scripts.


Key Vocabulary

Content Vocabulary

Punctuation – Marks used in writing to separate sentences or to clarify meaning.

Apostrophe – A punctuation mark used to indicate either possession or the omission of letters or numbers (as in contractions).

Contraction – A combination of words in which omitted letters are replaced by an apostrophe.

Possessive – Indicating possession or ownership.

Plural – Indicating more than one item.

Singular – Indicating only one item.

Arts Vocabulary

Tableau – A frozen picture created by actors.

Line – Words or sentences spoken by an actor.

Vocal expression – Conveyance of meaning using the elements of voice.



Apostrophes-on-a-stick (made with the attached enlarged apostrophe. Other options include an apostrophe printed or by hand, on cardstock. Simply glue onto the handle (a stick, ruler, straw, pencil, or other similar item).  Have enough of these for each group of 4-5 students.


Instructional Design

Opening/Activating Strategy

  • Teach and sing (to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”):

       I see an s at the end of a noun.

       Apostrophe in or leave it out?

       If it has something to possess

       Then it should be ‘s.

       But if it’s a plural – more than one,

       No apostrophe – that’s how it’s done!

  • Collectively develop gestures to go along with the song (e.g., draw an S in the air, arms embracing to convey “possess”, thumbs up for “that’s how it’s done,” etc.).


Work Session

  • Introduce/review what an apostrophe is, and its various uses: possessives, contractions, omitted letters.  Focus on possessives.  Discuss how a possessive is formed in general by putting ‘s at the end of a word; a plural is formed by putting an s at the end of the word; and these two formations are often confused with one another, so people put in an apostrophe into a plural where it doesn’t belong, and people often leave it out of a possessive where it does belong. 

            Optional:  Do an online image search for ‘misused apostrophes’ or “signs with incorrect       

            plurals’ for real world examples showing this common confusion.

Drama Instruction

  • Introduce the Drama strategy of Tableau – a frozen picture created by actors.  Model tableau with a small group – create a tableau of a playground.  Encourage different shapes within the tableau, allow actors to be both living and non-living elements in the tableau, and be clear that all must be in the same picture.
  • Introduce the idea of making a tableau of a word – choose a simple 3- or 4- letter word.  Draft students to use their bodies to create a tableau of the word, e.g., L-I-O-N (one student shapes herself into an “L”, one into an “I”, etc.).  
  • Remind them that they can use their full bodies, or certain parts, and that there are many ways to create each letter. Possibly, have all students stand to make the shapes of the letters, to give the actors a variety of ideas. 
  • Then add another actor to be an “S” at the end – L-I-O-N-S.  Solicit a suggestion of a sentence with the word as a plural, e.g., “The lions are all asleep.”  Have the group say the sentence together, inserting the spelling (spoken individually by each letter) after the word, e.g., “The lions - L-I-O-N-S - are all asleep.”  This is their line of text.  
  • Discuss elements of vocal expression:  tone of voice, volume, articulation. Have students, or the entire class, explore how to say the line with vocal expression.
  • Next, develop a sentence with the word as a possessive, e.g., “The lion’s mane is very shaggy.”  Have one of the actors – either the actor who is the last letter of the word or the “S” actor – hold up the stick apostrophe in the correct location in the word tableau.  Have the group say the new sentence together, inserting the spelling again, spoken individually by the actors, after the word, e.g., “The lion’s – L-I-O-N-apostrophe-S – mane is very shaggy.”  Have students say this line also with appropriate expression.
  • If deemed necessary, repeat the modeling process with another example, perhaps with another type of noun, e.g.,  “I have a hundred rocks – R-O-C-K-S – in my collection,” and “Look at this rock’s – R-O-C-K-apostrophe-S – weird shape,” or “Great minds – M-I-N-D-S – think alike,” and “I see it in my mind’s – M-I-N-D-apostrophe-S - eye.”
  • Brainstorm a variety of 3- or 4-letter nouns – write them on the board or on a screen.  They can be animals, objects, even abstract concepts, e.g., dog, book, sun, love, tree, plum, cup, wind.  Avoid nouns ending in “S” (e.g., boss, mess) or with irregular or more complicated plurals (e.g., wolf, man, box, fish).  Use nouns that pluralize with -s.
  • Divide the class into working groups of four or five students.  Instruct them to replicate the modeled process with one of the brainstormed words (or an appropriate noun of their own choosing):  
    • Create a word tableau with an s at the end, using their bodies creatively to make the shapes of the letters.
    • Create a sentence with the word as a plural. 
    • Speak the sentence with the spelled-out word, using their voices expressively.
    • Create a sentence with the word as a possessive
    • Insert the apostrophe in the appropriate place. 
    • Speak the sentence with the spelled out word, including the apostrophe.
  • Have each group present their two tableaux to the class.  After each, examine the choices the group made and determine if they included or left out the apostrophe correctly.


Closing Reflection

  • Reflect on the process of creating the groups’ tableaux. “How did you work together to create it, and then to say your lines?  How did you use your bodies to represent the letters?  What are the two forms that we focused on?  What is the difference between them, and which one generally uses an apostrophe?”
  • Return to the song and sing it again, using the gestures developed by the class at the beginning of the lesson.




  • Assess understanding of the difference between the possessive and the plural, based on prior knowledge and/or after learning and singing the song.
  • Observe how students use their bodies to create the letters, and how they use their voices to express their lines.
  • Observe and listen in on group processes for creating their tableaux and lines, looking for respectful collaboration, sharing of ideas, and inclusion of all group members.



Have students choose three words from the word bank on the board and write two sentences for each, one with the word as a plural, and the other with the word as a possessive. Stipulate that they cannot use the word that their group used, and they cannot repeat sentences that any of the groups used.




  • Challenge the students to make their sentences connect in meaning and context.  (e.g., “All of the pigs – P-I-G-S - were snorting.  We heard one pig’s – P-I-G-apostrophe-S – squeals above the chorus of snorts.”
  • Add in plural possessives, to clarify the use of apostrophes there, so that the modeling offers three lines, and each group must come up with three lines (e.g., “There were so many toys – T-O-Y-S – in the playroom.  One toy’s – T-O-Y-apostrophe-S – speaker was playing some very irritating music.  The toys’ – T-O-Y-S-apostrophe many colors were like a kaleidoscope.”
  • Add in contractions for “is” to further differentiate.  E.g., “That pig’s about to run away” or “the noisy toy’s getting on my last nerve.”
  • Focus on pronoun exceptions – possessives without apostrophes (its, not it’s; whose, not who’s; hers, not her’s; ours, not our’s; yours, not your’s; theirs, not their’s).
  • Practice with words that end with s – “Here come the buses/the bus’s wheel is flat”; the Davises are coming to visit/Mr. Davis’s mother is with them.”


  • Cycle all students through groups in front of the class, rather than having groups work independently.
  • Have the whole class decide on and practice a shape for each letter.
  • Do fewer examples and use longer words so more students can be in each (if guided by the teacher in front of the class).
  • Use words for items visible in the classroom, and make the sentences correspond to visible phenomena, (e.g., “There are lamps L-A-M-P-S – in our classroom,” and “The tall lamp’s – L-A-M-P-apostrophe-S shade is white.”)

*This integrated lesson provides differentiated ideas and activities for educators that are aligned to a sampling of standards. Standards referenced at the time of publishing may differ based on each state’s adoption of new standards.

 Ideas contributed by:  Barry Stewart Mann

 Revised and copyright:  August 2022 @ ArtsNOW