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How to Teach Contractions

How to Teach Contractions

Some of the most common errors in English usage arise from the misuse of apostrophes and contractions—especially when it comes to words like it’s vs. its and you’re vs. your. Giving your student a solid foundation in how contractions are formed and what they actually mean—that is, which letters the apostrophe replaces—will go a long way in helping him or her avoid these common mistakes in the future.

What is a contraction?
A contraction consists of two words that are combined to form one word. To “contract” means to “make smaller,” and that is what we do when we form contractions: we take two longer words and contract them into one shorter word.

When do we use contractions?
Contractions are informal “shortcuts” that we take in our everyday speech. Instead of saying “Do not tease the dog,” we shorten it to “Don’t tease the dog.”

Those same shortcuts can be used in informal writing when we want our writing to reflect our way of speaking. In formal writing, however, it’s best to avoid contractions.

How do we teach contractions?

  1. Use a rubber band to demonstrate to your student the concept of expanding and contracting. When you stretch the rubber band, it expands; when you let it go, it contracts. That’s what we’re doing when we contract words – we’re just making them smaller.
  2. Demonstrate the concept by writing he is on a piece of paper, or use letter tiles if you have them. Cross out the i and replace it with an apostrophe. Read the new word to your student to show how the pronunciation changes from he is to he’s.
  3. You may need to explain that an apostrophe is a type of punctuation mark. One of its jobs is to help us form contractions. However, many students put the apostrophe in the wrong spot, as in ar’nt. Understanding that the apostrophe must always take the place of the omitted letters will prevent such errors.
  4. Now write or build the words she will. Cross out the w-i and replace those letters with an apostrophe. Explain to your student that she’ll is a shortcut, a shorter way of saying she will.
  5. Underscore the importance of the apostrophe by removing it from the contraction she’ll. Point out that without the apostrophe, the word is shell and not she’ll. Never forget the apostrophe!

Level 3 of the All About Spelling program teaches contractions in an effective multisensory way. All three major pathways to the brain are used: sight, sound, and touch.

AAS Level 3, Step 27: Contractions














Download sample  Download Step 27 to see inside our award-winning spelling program. 

Every lesson contains three parts—Review, New Teaching, and Reinforcement—all working together to ensure that your student understands, remembers, and can apply what is being taught.

Below is a list of contractions you can teach and practice with your child.

Alphabetical List of Contractions

are not = aren’t

cannot = can’t

could not =couldn’t

did not = didn’t

do not = don’t

does not = doesn’t

had not = hadn’t

have not = haven’t

he is  = he’s

he has = he’s

he will = he’ll

he would = he’d

he had = he’d

here is = here’s

I am = I’m

I have = I’ve

I will = I’ll

I would = I’d 

I had = I’d

is not = isn’t

it is = it’s

it has = it’s

it will = it’ll

must not = mustn’t

she is = she’s

she has = she’s

she will = she’ll

she would = she’d

she had = she’d

should not = shouldn’t

that is = that’s

there is = there’s

they are = they’re

they have = they’ve

they will = they’ll

they would = they’d

they had = they’d

was not = wasn't

we are = we’re

we have = we’ve

we will = we’ll

we would  = we’d

we had = we’d

were not = weren’t

what is = what’s

where is = where’s

who is = who’s

who will = who’ll

*will not = won’t (irregular)

would not = wouldn’t

you are = you’re

you have = you’ve

you will = you’ll

you would = you’d

you had = you’d