Using Story to Teach Grammar – The Montessori Way
An Introduction to Who Owns It?
Is that yours? No, that is his! Give me my book! You are reading your book. Who ate Gary’s dinner? That was Gary’s food.
All these sentences show ownership. Someone in each sentence owns something. The way that we say that someone owns something in English is called a possessive.
The simplest way to approach possessives is to recognize that, in English, they appear as three different parts of speech: nouns, adjectives, and pronouns.
The possessive noun is a noun that modifies another noun by showing ownership. The possessive noun acts like an adjective by modifying the noun, but it still has its origin as a noun and, thus, it is classified here as a special type of noun.
The second sort of possessive word is the possessive adjective. Possessive adjectives are, first, adjectives, meaning that they must modify a noun. To modify nouns, the possessive adjective precedes the noun, as in her ball, his book, my dinner, or your pen. It is important in identifying the possessive adjective to verify that it is modifying a noun. The use and classification of possessive adjectives is commonly very confused, especially on the Internet.
The third form of possessive word is the possessive pronoun. Possessive pronouns are, first, pronouns. That means that they are standing in for a noun, not modifying the noun. In this case, they are standing in or substituting for a possessive noun.
Examples of possessive pronouns are mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, and theirs. A possessive pronoun would be used in a sentence like, “Those gloves are hers,” or, “That shirt is mine.”
It is important to note that possessive pronouns do not have an apostrophe. This is particularly confused with the words it’s and its. It’s with an apostrophe is a contraction. Its without an apostrophe is a possessive pronoun.
I hope that this story of Pixel and her missing green catnip ball can help to sort out the characteristics of the possessive words and the differences that each type manifests. They are quite fascinating. I hope you enjoy this story that, as I say at the beginning, was originally told to me by a cat.
Dr. Michael Dorer was trained internationally, and has taught students from age 2 to 14. He has been involved in Montessori education for over 45 years, including two decades of educating adults to be Montessorians.
Michael holds multiple degrees including Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)from Argosy University. After 25 years as Director of Montessori Education at St. Catherine University, he went on in 2012 to found a graduate level Montessori program at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah called “The Institute for Montessori Innovation”. Currently he writes, lectures, consults, oversees artistic residencies, delivers key notes and workshops, and professional development.
Michael Dorer’s new book, Grammar Tells a Story: How we teach grammar in Montessori, is a book that combines over fifty stories for telling in Montessori classrooms along with vital information about the Montessori approach to grammar and language arts, storytelling, and basic Montessori theory and philosophy.
It is planned that Grammar Tells a Story will be released in the fall of 2022. It is being published by Parent Child Press of Santa Rosa,CA. For preorders, contact them at (877) 975-3003 or at www.montessoriservices.com/parent-child-press
Who owns it?
by Michael Dorer
Here’s a story that I once heard told by a cat. Not in your time and not in my time, but in a time when animals could talk, and words could speak out loud.
Once upon a time, in that far away time, there was a lovely orange tabby cat called Pixel, who so very much enjoyed playing with a small ball stuffed with catnip.
Every day she would play with that catnip ball, batting it about with her paws and enjoying herself tremendously.
One day as she batted the ball about, it so happened that it slipped into the tiny space between the words of a sentence.
The pretty tabby scratched at it and clawed, but she could not get to the ball, no matter how many times she tried. Finally, poor Pixel was so frustrated that she simply lay down and glared at the ball, where it was stuck between those words. Only the tip of her tail twitched angrily.
Just at that moment, one of the words in the sentence that had captured the ball stepped quietly into the room.
It was an adjective, beautifully attired in a smart suit all royal blue.
“I can help you, Pixel,” the adjective said, “just tell me please, who is it that owns that fragrant ball?”
Now Pixel had always been a cat of very few words and being frustrated now she could only manage to mew, “Me, me, me.”
At that, the adjective spoke once again in a charming tone. “I can only help you if you will show me that you own it with the proper words. You must say it in a way that uses me.”
Pixel fixed the adjective with a feline glare but thought carefully and deeply. Then she said, “I think I know what it is that you require me to say. ‘It is my ball.’”
“Correct,” cried the elated adjective. “You used me, an adjective, in fact a possessive adjective, to show that you own the ball. Anyone who can use the possessive adjective correctly deserves help. I will get the ball for you now.”
But just then a forbidding and imperious presence emerged from the sentence that was still holding the ball in a tight grip. “Stop,” he shouted. “I am a noun, and I demand that you hear me.”
“Pixel, I can certainly retrieve that ball for you if you will only tell me whose ball it is, but you must use your own name. After all, I am a noun, and I require that you use me.”
Although the adjective was fuming and in a royal blue funk, the high and mighty noun prevailed and, once again, Pixel had to think.
After lengthy and deep thought Pixel hit upon what she believed to be the correct answer.
“I have it,” she meowed. “How is this, ‘That is Pixel’s ball.’”
“Excellent,” shouted the delighted noun. “You used me, a noun, in fact a possessive noun. That is so much finer than a mere possessive adjective,” he announced with a quick dismissive glance at the still angry adjective. “Anyone who can use a possessive noun correctly deserves my help I will get the ball for you.”
However, before the noun could move at all, there was a flash of purple from the sentence that was still holding Pixel’s ball. Out stepped a tall, proud character, eager to displace the noun.
“Stop,” he called out, as he shoved the noun aside. “I am a pronoun, and you really must hear me now.”
By now, both the adjective and the noun were indignant, but the pronoun spoke above them all, making Pixel pay attention.
The pronoun fixed Pixel with a penetrating gaze. “Pixel,” said the pronoun, “I will retrieve that ball for you if you can only tell me who’s ball it is. But you must use me, the pronoun, in your speech.”
For the third time, Pixel had to ponder deeply. Twice, she had already shown that she owned the ball, once with the adjective, and once with the noun. Now, what could this pronoun require?
Finally, the answer came to mind.
“I have it,” she mewed. “The ball is hers.”
“Outstanding,” exclaimed the pronoun. “You used me, a pronoun, in fact the possessive pronoun. That is clearly the superior way to express yourself. Anyone who can use a possessive pronoun properly deserves help. I’ll retrieve the ball.”
But before the pronoun could move, both the noun and adjective began to object vociferously and strenuously.
“Oh no you don’t,” someone said.
“Hands off,” said the other.“That is her ball,” called the adjective.
“I know, it is Pixel’s ball,” argued the noun.
“That ball is hers,” responded the pronoun.
And so, the argument continued, each of them insisting that they could best show ownership.
Pixel finally saw that any one of the three ways would work. She could show that she owned the ball with an adjective, a noun, or a pronoun, any one of them.
“But why,” she wondered, “must I choose? They all work.”
As the noun, adjective, and pronoun kept wrangling, poor Pixel began to despair. It seemed that with these three she would never get her beloved catnip ball back.
Just then a bright red verb stepped out from the sentence gripping the ball tightly.
“Take it,” said the verb and rolled the ball right to Pixel who was thrilled.
“Now play,” commanded the verb. Those three may argue forever. Each one is right and yet none will admit it.” With a dismissive glance, the verb then bounded back into the sentence.
Pixel once again had the catnip ball, which she enjoyed so much
As for the adjective, the noun, and the pronoun, I think they are still arguing, so we still must choose which of these three ways we want to use to show who owns something. Any of these three ways is workable, it is up to us to decide which will fit best in our sentence and in our thoughts.
And that’s the last I have heard of Pixel and the argument between the adjective, the noun, and the pronoun. Such things do happen, you know. So, the story is told, and here it ends. •