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Teach the possessive apostrophe with this ONE simple trick!

When I was at school, I was taught to put a possessive apostrophe before the s if there was one owner, and after the s if there was more than one owner. Most of the time that works, except that:

  • Sometimes it doesn’t, and

  • It doesn’t teach students that the apostrophe is used to show who the owner is. (Read on, you’ll see what I mean!)

When you teach possessive apostrophes to your students:

  1. Get them to forget everything they’ve learned about possessive apostrophes and be ready to start again.

  2. Have them rote learn this question:

Who owns the ____________?

The apostrophe goes after whatever you answered to that question.

For example:

The girls books... (one girl)

Q: Who owns the books?

A: The girl.

So, your apostrophe goes after girl.

The girls books... (three girls)

Q: Who own the books?

A: The girls.

So, your apostrophe goes after girls.

This trick is even more brilliant when coping with irregular nouns where spelling the changes. For example, ladies, men, women, children. So:

The mens toilets...

Q: Who own the toilets?

A: The men. (Yes, yes, your students will call out all sorts of helpful things like, "the council Miss!" and "the tax-payer miss!" Keep calm and think about chocolate.)

So, your apostrophe goes after men.

The childrens playground.

Q: Who owns the playground?

A: The children. (Brace! Brace! Brace! "The council, Miss!" / "But Sir, they must be heeeelllll rich; kids can't own a playground!")

Stick your apostrophe after children.

Put it on a big poster at the front of your room, get students to write it in the inside cover of their book, make wee notes for students to stick beside the keyboard of their laptops to remind them of the magic question:

Who owns the _______?

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Watch the video explanation below.


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