Teaching pronouns is an important part of teaching English because they are an integral part of our language. Consequently, it is common to teach pronouns at quite a low level, when learners have a basic understanding of the parts of a sentence but are still learning to deal with more complex sentence structures.
The first step in teaching pronouns is to highlight the differences between the pronouns: male, female, neutral, 1st, 2nd and 3rd person, singular and plural. This can be done by showing simple sentences the learners can understand and substituting the nouns with the pronouns.
David is a teacher. -> He is a teacher.
Sarah has brown hair. -> She has brown hair.
This is a book. The book is blue. -> It is blue.
The next step is to focus on subject versus object pronouns. This can again be done by substituting the pronouns for nouns in example sentences. Highlight the fact that these pronouns are different because they are replacing the objects of the sentences, not the subjects.
Tracy gave Alex a book. -> Sarah gave him a book.
The teacher spoke to me and Jennifer. -> The teacher spoke to us.
I asked Thomas and Louise a question. -> I asked them a question.
Finally, it is necessary to complete the process by introducing possessive pronouns in the same manner.
This is Sarah. This is Sarah’s book. -> This is her book.
Conrad put on Conrad’s jersey. -> Conrad put on his jersey.
Ellie asked Clinton, “What is Clinton’s name?” -> Ellie asked Clinton, “What is your name?”
Of course, while this is the theory, it is always a good idea to incorporate games and activities into a lesson to consolidate the information, encourage retention and promote practice. Memory game is one such game you can play:
Arrange a set of cards upside down on the desk. Each card must have either a pronoun (“he”) or a picture (“a boy”), and each card must have a partner. Students take turns turning over cards (2 at a time). If they match (“he” and “a boy”) then they keep the cards; if they don’t match they must turn the cards over and another student can try. If you want to make it more difficult you can ask the students to make a sentence with the words before awarding them the cards.
Teaching pronouns may seem like a simple task but it is more a matter of allowing your students to practise utilising pronouns effectively. Making use of games and fun activities will help make teaching pronouns fun and effective.