In order for Kindergarten students to have the best opportunity at mastering the needed writing skills for first grade, we have to to teach them how to write with the most accuracy and command of proper English. One way to help students with this is to teach proper nouns versus common nouns. This is typically a pretty simple lesson to teach, but it really improves the quality of student writing in the long run! This brief lesson is one that is necessary, fun and a good foundation for student writing.
This lesson is chronologically important, as it comes after my introduction of the word common to my students. Common is a word many kindergarteners won't know, so this is an important idea I must teach students BEFORE this lesson. This lesson also needs to come before I have my students really write about other people or places. Since this lesson fits between two important pieces of learning, it is crucial to push students with this concept!
Students are seated in front of me on the carpet, as this is a whole group lesson.
"Today, we read a book called Career Day, about different people with all different types of jobs. Now, we know that many people can do the same job; we have lots of teachers at our school! But, each person is different and each place where a person could work is different. This is important to remember!
Today, we are going to talk a little bit about certain people and certain places, and how they are a little different than just 'common words.' After this lesson, I think you will be able to write a little more easily about the two types of nouns! That's right... there are two types of nouns! Let's learn about them!"
"Now, we already know that nouns are people, places and things. But... we haven't learned yet that there are common nouns and proper nouns. So, before we can learn what they are, me have to make sure that we know the two types. The two types of nouns are: common nouns....... and proper nouns. Can you turn to a partner and repeat that, please?"
(Students will turn to partners and say, "The two types of nouns are: common nouns....... and proper nouns.") --FYI: I have students turn and repeat things to partners a lot in this lesson (and in others as well). When students talk to each other and hear something from someone other than their teacher, they are more likely to remember it! Students learn a lot when they teach themselves!--
"Good job! There are common nouns and proper nouns."
"Now that we know there are two types of nouns, I can teach you exactly what each type is. A common noun is easy to remember- it is anything common. A common noun is a common person, a common place or a common thing; these nouns have no special names. A common person would be a girl. A common place would be a school. A common thing would be a movie. But, if we gave any of those things their own special name, they would turn into a proper noun. For example- making a girl into a proper noun would be Jenny. Jenny is a special name for a girl; therefore, she is a proper noun. Making a school into a proper noun would be calling it Pleasant Ridge School; that is the special name for our school- it's not just any common school; it's Pleasant Ridge School, and it's proper. Making a movie into a proper noun would be calling the movie by its name- The Avengers Movie is a proper noun because The Avengers is the special name for the movie; that is what makes it proper and not common. Basically, proper nouns are special names for people, places or things. Can you say that with me, please?"
(Students will state with the teacher: "Proper nouns are special names for people, places or things.)
"Good job! Now, turn and tell a partner!"
(Students will turn to partners and say, "Proper nouns are special names for people, places or things.")
"Yes! Great work, everyone. There is only one more thing you need to know. Proper nouns, special names for people, places and things, always get a capital letter! I am a teacher... teacher is NOT a special name, so it doesn't need a capital letter; however, Ms. Smith is my name and it is special, just for me, so it does need a capital letter! All special names are proper nouns and they always get a capital letter. Can you say that with me, please?"
(Students will state with the teacher: "All special names are proper nouns and they always get a capital letter.")
"Great. Now, turn and tell a partner again!"
(Students will turn to partners and say, "All special names are proper nouns and they always get a capital letter.")
"Good! I think you guys have got the hang of this. Now, let's practice a little bit!"
Extra: Here is a little video about common and proper nouns that is a great extension activity!
I love to have my students play a game to show their comprehension of this lesson. I put a chart on the board that says "common nouns" and "Proper Nouns." Then, I pass one card to each student with a name on it- it could be either common or proper.
I have students find their partner- partners will have the same picture on their cards, but one student has the common version of the name to go with the picture, while the other has the proper version of the name to go with the picture. Once students have made their matches, they sit down together to let me know they're ready.
When all students have made their match, I call the groups up one by one to place their cards on the chart. I have all the other students participate as well by playing the following game:
"I will read the matches when you bring them to me. Here is your job for each match- decide if the noun is common or proper. If the noun is common, give me a thumbs up. If the noun is proper, and it is a special name that needs a tall, capital letter, I want you to stand up. So, remember: common, regular nouns just get a thumbs up; special, proper nouns need a tall, capital letter, so they get a tall stand up!"
Students LOVE this game because it gets them up and moving. I love this game because it keeps everyone engaged, it keeps everyone accountable for the information and it shows me, through informal observation, who may or may not have a good grasp on the lesson!
Pro's for this lesson:
This whole lesson is one that can be repeated a few times.
This game can be played any time, as many times as I like!
The cards from this lesson can be used in a center for students to use to review repeatedly.
Here is a video that shows a student's sorting of proper nouns.
To extend and expand this task, there are so many different things I can do!
I will review common versus proper nouns a few times following this lesson. I want to make sure students remember the different between the two types and are able to show me their knowledge when they are writing.
Also, when students are writing, I will have them self-assess and look to make sure their common nouns are lower-case and their proper-nouns are capitalized. This will be something we talk about ad review throughout the year.
Here are some great activities that I like to use to support this lesson!
Here is a Noun Game by The Learning Curve with an Extra Practice PowerPoint. Here's a Proper Noun TicTacToe Extension Activity. And, here's a reference chart for noun sorting.