Teaching Appositive Phrases With Newspapers

Teaching Appositive Phrases With Newspapers

The English Department head at my school, Debbie Self, tells her students that they must add FAT to their essays. She's not talking about feeding them loads of carbs. Instead, she is referring to three elements of compositions that will add interest and flow to student writing:

  • Figurative Language
  • Appositive Phrases
  • Transition Words

Last week, I started teaching my students about appositive phrases, which I particularly enjoy because we learned to use them extensively in journalism classes.

As I prepared for my lessons on the topic, I found a video that introduces appositives in Safari Montage. If your school has this video streaming system, just search for appositives. If not, you should tell them to get it.

One of the things I like to try to do is show my students how what they're learning is used in the real world. Trust me, this is necessary because students, particularly at the middle school age, don't always see the value in things like verbs, nouns, or appositives. Heaven help us when we start talking about gerunds and infinitives…

Anyway, I had introduced my English Language Arts students to appositive phrases and we had completed a small assignment in the book. Later that day, in my Mixed Media Journalism class, we ended up talking about appositives again. And that's when it hit me. We use appositive phrases all the time in newspaper!

So I had the students pull newspapers from my stack in the back of the room and highlight all the appositive phrases they could find in their section, then share with the class.

Teaching Appositives With Newsapapers

This is a wonderful way to teach kids to find appositives, and also show them their real-world usage. Two birds, one stone…

Videos to teach appositive phrases

Before you hit the newspapers, you can use videos as a fun way to introduce your students to the appositive phrase concept. Here is a Cartoon Network compilation featuring appositive phrases. I recommend watching the video through once with your students, then go back to stop and identify each of the appositive phrases.

Finally, here is a creative usage of appositive phrases (and a very appropriate song) that will get the attention of high school students, but may not be suitable for younger kids:

Appositive phrase Worksheets

Yes, I do think there is a time and place for worksheets. I do NOT think they're good for making the kids sit down and shut up. I prefer to give them either a few minutes to work independently on them, or time to work on them as a group. Then we go over the whole worksheet as a group, and I require them to correct their mistakes. I tell them to not erase, I want to see where they messed up and that they were paying enough attention to make their corrections. We talk about these corrections as we're going over the worksheet together. Then I give the students a participation grade.

If I have a class with a co-teacher, we divide our students into groups and provide whatever support they need to complete the assignment. My struggling students have blossomed under this system — participating in the group discussions when they would have just sat back silently in a full-class discussion.

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Related topics: Grammar Lesson Plans

About the author 

Michelle Boyd Waters, M.Ed.

I am a secondary English Language Arts teacher, a University of Oklahoma student working on my doctorate in Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum with an concentration in English Education and co-Editor of the Oklahoma English Journal. I am constantly seeking ways to amplify students' voices and choices.

  1. I really enjoyed your example of using the newspaper, cartoons, and celebrity mug shots to get across the concept of appositives. There are a few English elements which contemporary students (especially middle-schoolers) deem useless in this highly technological world of streamlined communications. New and innovative techniques that support the integration of a new concept are always helpful. The collaboration of students with varied learning styles seem to really benefit from this approach. I am glad to see that worksheets are not dead, although their use should be minimal, they still serve a purpose!
    Thank you for all your great information!

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