Appositively Difficult.

See what I did there?

I’ve been teaching appositives for a whole year now. They’re really quite simple; it’s just a noun that is used to describe another noun. I am Mandi, but I am a teacher, a jogger, Justin’s wife, etc. So in a sentence, when I want to give more details about myself, without rambling on, I would say something like, “Mandi, an English teacher, likes to read books.” There’s also punctuation mixed in with these tricksy beasts. Did I have to include the information about Mandi being an English teacher? No. But by doing so, I gave the reader a better image of who Mandi is. Because the information was unnecessary, I “blocked it off” with commas (because it’s a nonrestrictive appositive describing Mandi).

Phew. Now that that’s over, let’s talk about how to teach these little buggers. Teaching appositives sucks. There, I said it. We only spend about two days on them, and we use them in our Unit 2 writing assignment (an autobiographical narrative that includes dialogue). I’m under a time crunch with my block class (January-May), as it is almost spring break, and I still haven’t gotten to poetry. I digress… Last semester, while teaching appositives for the FOURTH time (they say having the same class all day is easy, and it is, the fourth time you teach the lesson), I had a brilliant opener for these stupid nouns. I always preface lessons with why kids need to learn appositives. On their End of Instruction Exams, they will be asked grammatical questions that will focus on where commas go. They will never ask a child to identify an appositive, but they may ask them to put commas around something that is an appositive. Kids won’t know how to do that if they don’t first know the rules. (If they’d just use the term appositive, I think kids would do better, but what do I know. I’m just a teacher).

My opener involves markers and the back side of the appositive worksheet-packet that I hand out. I love using markers, and as we all know, I love annotating texts. It gets the kids visually engaged as we flesh things out. I start by having them write their name very large at the top of their paper. Then, they choose three nouns that describe them, along with three adjectives. It’s difficult for kids to wrap their heads around the fact that NOUNS describe things just as much as adjectives.


Then we put it all together in a sentence, lingering on the fact that I COULD replace their name with their noun, but it gives more info if I don’t AND I could get rid of the noun, but it gives more info if I don’t! “And that is an appositive.” Minds blow. Markers drop. Foggy eyes become clear. It’s really quite amazing.

0310150946cThat’s my “secret.” I use the McDougal Littell Language Network 10 worksheets (it’s three pages long and meant for practice after the book exercises, which I never use) for practice because they have the definition and just enough “find the appositive” and “practice with the appositives” to be helpful. We will use our own appositives in writing tomorrow, when we will begin learning how to write dialogue for an “autobiographical narrative” (a very, very short story about ourselves).

Good luck with grammar! It can be so hard to teach these days, but so fulfilling when it sticks!



2 thoughts on “Appositively Difficult.

  1. The greatest service you could provide your students and those who will read their writing is a forceful entreaty to avoid appositives. Appositives reveal an author who is too unskilled to keep subject with predicate, who has contempt for the audience’s time and intelligence. White Gentiles in flyover land are disadvantaged enough as it is in getting into schools that matter. Don’t disadvantage them even more by setting foundations in elementary school that will see their personal statements and applications dismissed due to bad writing that you taught them.

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