Your Turn Lesson: Personal Pronouns Used as the Subject of a Sentence (Nominative Case)
Nouns don’t change their spelling based on how they are used in a sentence. Pronouns, however, do change depending on whether they are used as the subject of the sentence or the direct object or to show possession. “I” becomes “me” becomes “my” or “mine.” Young writers often have problems with personal pronouns used as the subject of the sentence, especially when the pronoun is part of a compound subject. Because pronoun use is complicated for young writers, we have developed several lessons to address the issue. This lesson focuses on personal pronouns used as the subject (nominative case).
Hook: Read Ruth Heller’s Mine All Mine: A Book About Pronouns. Stop at the page describing possessive pronouns. Heller provides multiple examples of personal pronouns with exceptional illustrations, both written and visual. The book also suggests ways to think about which form of the pronoun to select for correctness.
Purpose: Writers, today we are going to look at personal pronouns and how we use them in our writing. Pronouns sometimes give us trouble because they change depending on how they are used in a sentence.
Brainstorm: Ask the class to use the reference section of their writer’s notebooks to jot down as many personal pronouns as they can. Having just heard Heller’s recounting in Mine All Mine, the students should be able to think of many. After a few minutes, ask students to volunteer one pronoun from their list. Start an anchor chart of personal pronouns. Accept all personal pronouns even those that are possessive or objective case. However, if a student offers a “pronoun” such as “other,” or “where,” do not add it to the chart. Instead, explain that the word is a different part of speech that we will discuss later.
Here is a list of personal pronouns: I, you, he, she, it, we, they, me, him, her, us, them, my, mine, you, your, his, her/hers, its, our, ours, their, theirs.
This lesson will discuss pronouns in the nominative case (used as subjects or predicate nominatives): I, you, he, she, it, we, they.
Model: Write a short paragraph (talk across five fingers) in front of the class.
My sister and I rode our bikes to the park. We saw a dog without his owner. I said to my sister: “I think he is lost.” She said, “You are right.” Then, the dog wagged its tail, and we took him with us.
Ask students to turn and talk about the pronouns used in the paragraph. Underline the pronouns: My, I, our, we, his, I, he, she, you, its, we, him, us. With the class decide on which pronouns are used as the subject: I, We, I, I, he, she, you, we. Circle the pronouns used as the subject and highlight them on the anchor chart as well.
Guided Practice: Use a page of text from Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig or Happy Like Soccer by Maribeth Boelts or Every Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson. Display some pages on the document imager and ask students to find pronouns that act as the subject of the sentence. Pair students and send them on a personal pronoun hunt looking in their independent reading books and the classroom library. Ask them to look for personal pronouns used as subjects with attention to those in compound subjects.
As a second practice, as students to look in their writer’s notebooks or current draft(s) to find pronouns they have used as subjects. Ask them: “Do you have any pronouns that need to be changed?” You might also ask them if there are any spots where they could substitute a pronoun for a repeated noun.
Caution: Sometimes when authors write dialogue, they try to imitate the way people sometimes speak and that isn’t always correct. They may see sentences like: “Me and my dad are going fishing Saturday.” Remember that we use the pronoun “I” as the subject of the sentence, and it’s polite to name ourselves last.
If there is a compound subject, a simple test to determine which pronoun to use is to take out the noun in the compound subject, and read the sentence with only the pronoun. Does it sound right to your ear? Here is an example from Happy Like Soccer: (My auntie and I travel to the game together riding on one bus past the empty lot, then another through the city, then walking the rest of the way to the field.) If you remove “my auntie” you have, “I traveled to the game.” “I” is the correct pronoun choice in the sentence example.
Independent Practice: Return to the current draft or notebook entry and continue to draft thinking about where you can use a pronoun to substitute for a name or names in the subject of a sentence. Check your subject pronouns and see if they are circled on the anchor chart.
What do you now know about personal pronouns?
When do you think you should use subject pronouns?
Why should you name yourself last when you are writing about yourself and someone else?
Why do you think we use a specific name or names first before we use the pronoun?