I’ve just followed a van for a few miles down the motorway. I could have overtaken it but I was mesmerised by the writing on the rear window. Apostrophes were scattered randomly throughout the message on the van and I just had to keep reading.
Maybe I was wrong? Maybe there really should be an apostrophe in plurals. Or maybe the sign writers had a bit too much paint and thought they would use it up by sticking commas and apostrophes in odd places. It certainly entertained me on an otherwise boring journey.
Except, well to be honest, it brought home a sad truth. A lot of us just aren’t comfortable with apostrophes, plurals, spellings and the like. And that’s ok. I’m not knocking anyone. It just made me think that’s all. It made me question…why? Why are so many adults left wondering how to punctuate a simple sentence? Have we grown so used to texting each other that we have forgotten how to write properly? Do we, as TAs, struggle to formulate a proper sentence? And if so, how does that affect the children we support?
The common mistakes children seem to make are with ‘there’ ‘their’ and ‘they’re’ and with knowing when to use apostrophes for possession or omission. When adults have difficulty remembering which spelling to use they often rely on prompt sheets, but I think it would be better to make up rhymes or songs to help remember.
One song we use with the children is:
There, their, they’re,
Three ways to spell,
T H E R E (spell it out) is over there (point into the distance)
T H E I R their house, their dog, their car,
T H E Y apostrophe R E, they are dancing on the streets, they are going crazy.
Yes, it’s daft. I know. But it DOES help them to remember.