Activities to Teach Students to Identify Vague Pronoun References

As a student, understanding and using pronouns correctly is an essential skill that can greatly improve your writing. Pronouns like “he,” “she,” “they,” and “it” help you avoid repetition, improve sentence flow and coherence, and make your writing sound more professional. However, sometimes pronouns can be vague and unclear, leaving readers confused about their antecedents (the words they refer to). This is where explicit instruction and practice can come in handy. In this article, we will explore some activities that teachers can use to teach their students how to identify and correct vague pronoun references.

Activity 1: Pronoun Hunt

This activity will require your students to read a short piece of text and identify the pronouns used in it. Then, they will be asked to circle the antecedents of those pronouns. For example:

“Samantha and her sister went to the park. They enjoyed playing basketball and riding bikes. But when it started to rain, they had to cut their fun short.”

In this example, the student would circle “Samantha” and “her sister” as the antecedents of “they” in the second and third sentences. This activity will help your students notice when a pronoun is unclear and learn to look for its antecedent.

Activity 2: Pronoun Swap

In this activity, students will be given a paragraph with vague pronoun references. They will be tasked with replacing those pronouns with more specific nouns or pronouns that clearly identify their antecedents. For example:

“Emily had a lot of fun with her friends yesterday. They went to the mall and saw a movie. It was really good.”

In this example, the student could replace the first “they” with “Emily’s friends” and the second “it” with “the movie.” The revised paragraph would read:

“Emily had a lot of fun with her friends yesterday. Emily’s friends went to the mall and saw a movie. The movie was really good.”

This activity will help your students practice writing with clarity and precision, and develop a better understanding of the connection between pronouns and their antecedents.

Activity 3: Vague Pronoun Elimination

This activity requires your students to identify and eliminate vague pronoun references in their own writing. After writing a draft or paragraph, students will be tasked with going back and checking their pronouns for clarity. They should ask themselves: “What does this pronoun refer to? Is it clear to my reader?” If not, they should either replace the pronoun with a noun or rewrite the sentence to make the antecedent clear. For example:

“After arriving at the library, she grabbed some books and started reading. However, they were all too boring for her taste.”

In this example, the student could replace the first “she” with “Emily” (or whatever name they choose), and the second “they” with “the books.” The revised paragraph would read:

“After arriving at the library, Emily grabbed some books and started reading. However, the books were all too boring for her taste.”

This activity will help your students develop a habit of checking their own writing for clarity and precision, and become more confident and competent writers.

In conclusion, learning to identify and correct vague pronoun references is an important skill that can greatly improve your writing. By practicing these activities, you can develop a better understanding of how pronouns work, learn to recognize and correct vague references, and ultimately, become a more effective and confident writer.

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