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The Joy of Apostrophes

Is there any joy when teaching apostrophes? Certainly! The only thing is that the joy doesn’t come from disseminating worksheets to kids… it comes from using books to demonstrate the concept.

A couple of weeks ago I received a review copy of Wiggens Learns His Manners at the Four Seasons Restaurant by Leslie McGuirk and Alex Von Bidder. As I started to turn the pages, I noticed the adorable illustrations, complete with dialogue bubbles that enhance the text. However, a few pages in, I was smacked in the face with the way this book could be used as a teaching tool. This book is excellent for teaching kids how to use a possessive apostrophe in context.

I’m sure you’ve all taught students who did one of the following two things:
a) Added an apostrophe before the s in any word that ended in an s.
b) Put the apostrophe in the wrong place with a word that ended in an s, thereby not showing proper possession.

If you have students who are doing this, then having a conference with this text in your hand, after you’ve read it aloud to the full class, would provide you with an abundance of examples for how authors use apostrophes to show possession. Here are a few examples:

Sentences where the authors did not use apostrophes, with words that end in s, since there was no need to show possession:

–> Wiggens is a chocolate Labrador puppy and was a total rascal when it came to manners.
–> His dad told him that dogs from all over the world come to practice their manners at the Four Seasons.
–> Wiggens and the other puppies sat down at a table next to the pool.

Sentences where the authors used an apostrophe, with a word that ended in s, to show possession:
–> When the Saint Bernard arrived, he shook Wiggens’s paw.
–> Be respectful of others’ tastes, though they may differ from your own, and always be willing to take a bite of something new.
–> Wiggens’s Lesson #10

There are many more teachable parts of this book. I’ve selected just this one since I know that many kids struggle with possessive apostrophe use, especially when words end in s! Therefore, since the main character’s name is Wiggens there are many concrete examples to show your students how to use the possessive apostrophe, with a name, in this text. A definite conferring must-have!

You'll be able to buy this book starting August 11th, 2009.
You'll be able to buy this book starting August 11th, 2009.

WIGGENS LEARNS HIS MANNERS AT THE FOUR SEASONS RESTAURANT. Text copyright © 2009 by Leslie McGuirk and Alex Von Bidder. Illustrations copyright © 2009 by Leslie McGuirk. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Stacey Shubitz View All

I am a literacy consultant who has spent the past dozen years working with teachers to improve the teaching of writing in their classrooms. While I work with teachers and students in grades K-6, I'm a former fourth and fifth-grade teacher so I have a passion for working with upper elementary students.

I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).

7 thoughts on “The Joy of Apostrophes Leave a comment

  1. Stacey,

    Thanks for the response to my House on Mango Street question. I was trying to map out my read alouds for the year matching up to the type of writing we will be doing in writer’s workshop when possible. I will switch HMS to my memoir unit and have a general read aloud for the start of the year.

    Thanks again!


  2. Oh those apostrophes!!! When I was younger and smarter I could whip them off, but now, I confess, I puzzle over some.
    For example, Why is it Wiggins’s paw and others’ tastes? Because others is a plural noun and Wiggins is a singular noun?
    That must be it??!!
    Once an English teacher……..


  3. I only used The House on Mango Street during my memoir unit of study when I wanted to teach my kids how to dive really deep. I’m not sure how it’d work with SOLS. I’m inclined to say, especially since it’s the beginning of the school year, that you use your own writing as mentor texts.


  4. I have been enjoying your mentor texts posts. I have a quick question about slice of life. I was thinking of starting off writing workshop with oral storytelling and transitioning into slice of life writing. Do you think that The House on Mango Street could be a mentor text for slice of life? I have heard them referred to as vignettes, but I thought they might fit in with sol as well. Thanks for your input!


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