How to Use Commas Correctly
I calculated the amount of time I have spent correcting pronoun-antecedent errors: 4,012 hours. That’s 4,012 hours of my life that I’ll never have back. This pronoun-antecedent lesson plan might save you some time.
An Inspiring Letter
I received this letter the other day:
I was your student several years ago. I struggled in school. I had high hopes of becoming a great basketball player some day. Things were going well until I lost my confidence. None of my coaches could figure out why, and I wouldn’t tell them. I had a pronoun-antecedent agreement problem. It wasn’t until you taught this outstanding pronoun-antecedent agreement lesson that I realized I could be cured. I have a great career now, thanks to you.
Needless to say, I was quite warmed by the positive news. I don’t quite recall the student though. I even did an Internet search for a basketball player with that name. Anyhow, here’s the pronoun-antecedent agreement lesson that changed this young man’s life.
ELA Common Core Standards
Teaching comma use satisfies the following common core standards. This will impress your administrator, but bore your students. I recommend simplifying the language when you write the objective(s) on the board.
L.9-10.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
W.9-10.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of L.9-10.1-3.)
Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement Information Worth Sharing
Students should be familiar with basic pronoun functions and types. If not, go over the basics.
- A pronoun must agree with its antecedent in number, gender, and person.
- A singular pronoun must correspond to a singular antecedent.
- The garbage man took away 25% more trash this holiday. He began dreaming of a green Christmas next year, one with less trash.
3. A plural pronoun must refer to a plural antecedent.
- The garbage men worked hard. They wanted to go skiing in Colorado.
4. Pronouns that refer to a male or female must refer to the correct gender.
- Fred drank milk before he ate dinner. Susan ate steak after she went home.
Students may smirk at the seeming simplicity of this lesson. They’ll stop smirking when they realize how many pronoun-antecedent agreement errors their own writing contains.
Pronoun-Antecedent Lesson Plan Procedures
This activity should be done with a student’s rough draft. If a student doesn’t have a rough draft, make copies in advance of another rough draft. Another option is to use a piece of literature you are currently reading. Although corrections will be unnecessary, the identification practice will cement pronoun-antecedent information.
- Instruct students to make four columns length wise on a slice of paper.
- Identify all pronouns in the rough draft.
- List all pronouns in column one with its corresponding antecedent in column 2. Once columns 1 and 2 are filled up, move on to columns 3 and 4.
- If using this assignment with student rough drafts, have them check for correct agreement between their pronouns and their antecedents.
- If there is a problem in agreement, have them revise that portion of their rough draft.
- Do some examples on the board. Don’t assume they will immediately recognize errors.
Revision Lesson Plans
Many of the common core standards for language and writing are best taught by revising essays.