Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Taco's on Friday's

What's wrong with this title? Tacos are delicious, and Friday is as good a day as any to eat some. It's the misuse of apostrophes, of course. When you have a plural word, such as tacos or Fridays, no apostrophe is required. It's a simple rule, but students often add errant apostrophes. Then there is that pesky its/it's exception and what to do with a plural possessive.

To add to the problem, apostrophes are often misused in public communications and advertising. How many times have you seen signs like "Strawberry's $2.00" or "15-minute massage's." At my own college, there is a student-run electronic billboard that someone programmed to say "Hot dogs on Monday's in the cafeteria!" When I saw it, my heart rate went up and I felt a little dizzy. This is something that might be unique to English teachers, but everyone's got their quirks. It's like bamboo under the fingernails. I put in a help request with our IT department and didn't feel right until they fixed it.
Part of the problem is that when we teach the rules of apostrophes, students tune out. Another boring lecture about rules...I can just see their eyeballs rolling back in their heads. So I try and make it fun. We play a game where we first briefly review the rules, then divide the class into two teams. I give everyone paper to crumple up and set out two boxes on a table, and I stand between them. A few people from each team come up to a line on the floor. I hold up two choices of apostrophe use, one right, one wrong, above each box. On three, they throw the paper into the box with the correct choice

If they pick the right one and make a basket, their team gets a point. To add to the excitement, I take off points if they hit me. Click here for the whole game, review, quizzes and worksheets.

Having a few paper balls bounce off my head is a small price to pay for Tacos on Fridays.

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