By Mallory Carr, M.A., CFY-SLP
There are many different types of pronouns, and we use them all the time. Pronouns are words like: I, me, you, we, he, she, they, him, her, them, herself, himself, yourself, myself…No wonder pronouns are a tricky part of language for some kids! A common error kids make is replacing subjective pronouns (he, she, they) with objective pronouns (him, her, them). We’ve all heard kids say things like, “her is happy,” or “them is playing,” which is pretty adorable. However, kids should be using these subjective pronouns correctly by age 3.
Here are some ideas to promote proper use of pronouns using only books:
Activity 1: Practice “He” and “She” in short phrases
While looking at a book, ask your child, “Who is ____ing?” Or “Who has the ____?”
Lots of children will point to the picture. If they do this, encourage them to tell you. Some children might respond, “the girl/boy.” If they respond with “the girl/boy,” just show them the response you’re looking for: “You’re right, the girl is jumping! So we can say She is jumping. Who is jumping? She is…now you say it!”
Activity 2: Practice “He” and “She” in sentences
While looking at a book, point to a character and ask your child, “What is that person doing?” Or “What did that person do?”
If your child responds with the incorrect pronoun, simply say what they said back, fixing the pronoun. For example:
Child: “Him is riding a bike”
Parent: “He is riding a bike…You say it!”
Extra Credit: Add another sentence on to what they said, modeling another use of the pronoun
Child: “Him is riding a bike”
Parent: “He is riding a bike. He has a red bike. He is wearing a helmet, too!”
Activity 3: Practice “He” and “She” with making up stories
Pick a book where there is a lot to talk about with the illustrations. Ask your child to make up a story and tell you what happened in the book. This should only be done when the child consistently uses the correct pronoun in the previous task.
Encourage your child to say more about the book by asking questions like, “Why did that person do that?” “What was that person thinking?” “What do you think will happen next?”
These are some ways you can turn story time into practice time for pronouns, but pronoun practice can happen any time during the day! Just like in Activity 2, you can recast your child’s phrase—which means saying what they said back to them with correct grammar. Language recasting is an evidence-based language learning strategy that requires no preparation!
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