Developing Knowledge of Contractions (page 2)
A contraction is defined as a special word structure formed by substituting an apostrophe for omitted letters to shorten the word.
The student is unable to pronounce contractions when he encounters them in print.
For some students, a part of poor oral reading is the lack of knowledge of contractions. This is usually a minor reading problem. For comprehension and writing purposes, it is also useful to know what two words each contraction stands for and to be able to make contractions from various words.
Assessing Knowledge of Contractions
When testing for a student’s knowledge of contractions, you should show the student the contraction and ask him to pronounce it. If he can pronounce the word, it will suffice for decoding purposes. For example, the student pronounces the word can’t; for decoding purposes, he does not need to know that it means “cannot.” Have the student tell what two words the contraction stands for, so you know if he understands the meaning of the contraction and will be able to recognize it for comprehension purposes and use it in his written work. Refer to the list of 47 common contractions in the box below that are used for testing knowledge of contractions.
Teaching Knowledge of Contractions
In the Recommendations section there are several ideas that can be used to promote knowledge of contractions. It is important to keep in mind that the ability to correctly pronounce a contraction represents adequate decoding, but knowing what the contraction means will promote comprehension of text containing that contraction.
ELL Students and Knowledge of Contractions
The role contractions have in other languages can be very different than how they are used in English. It may be necessary to teach the concept of contractions to some ELL students.
A. For any contraction not known, write the two words it stands for and then the contraction on the chalkboard. Have students make up sentences using both the contracted and noncontracted form. See the following example.
let us let's
1. Let us go with Mother and Father
2. Let's go with Mother and Father
B. Give students a matching exercise by placing a few contractions on slips of paper in an envelope. Number each contraction. In the same envelope, place slips that name the two words each contraction stands for and write the matching number of the contraction on the back. Students then try to match the contractions with the correct words by placing them side by side, as illustrated below.
1. let's let us
2. don't do not
After the student has completed the exercise, he can turn the cards in the right-hand column over to see if the numbers on the back match the numbers on the slips in the left-hand column. (Be aware that whenever you use a self-checking format as described here, some students may not be able to prevent themselves from peeking at the answers on the back of the cards. Because of this, some teachers do not prepare games or exercises that are self-checking in this manner.)
C. Give students paragraphs to read in which several words could be contracted. Underline the words that can be contracted. Have the students change the words to contractions as they read them. See the following example:
Kareem said to Miguel, "We have only two days before you are going to leave."
"Yes," said Miguel, "I am waiting to go, and I have already packed my suitcase."
After doing this type of exercise, discuss why contractions are used and which form—long or short—sounds more natural in common speech.
D. Conduct contraction races between two students. Tell the students two words and see who can call out the contraction first. Also give contractions and have students call out the words that are contracted.
E. Give students newspaper articles and have them underline all contractions and words that could have been contracted.
F. As students talk, call attention to the contractions they use by writing them down. Discuss why they used the contracted form.
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