How to teach possessive adjectives and nouns!

As you progress with your beginner ESL students, we recommend introducing possessive adjectives and nouns at a relatively early stage. It is a natural progression once your student is comfortable with building basic sentences and has confidence with subject pronouns and object pronouns. Consider introducing the concept after your student becomes comfortable with basic Present Simple sentences.

Today I would like to highlight our possessive adjectives and possessive nouns lesson plans.

Using our N3.1 – Possessive Adjectives lesson plan:

We begin with a quick introduction about where possessive adjectives appear in basic sentences and relate these sentences to clear and simple images:
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The student then has the opportunity to create simple sentences using my, his and her:
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We then introduce the possessive adjectives our and their:
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The lesson then continues with some freer practice, using gapfill and sentence correction. One considerable point of confusion for beginner ESL students is the distinction between the contraction it’s and the possessive adjective its (and apostrophes in general). This is likely the first time your student has experienced this concept, so we make a special (and we hope intuitive) explanation of the concept:
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We conclude the lesson with further freer practice and a summary review of the possessive adjectives.

Using our N4.1 – Possessive Nouns lesson plan

Typically I don’t teach possessive nouns to a student immediately after covering possessive adjectives. I find it’s a good idea to let the concept of possessive adjectives solidify for the learner with continued basic sentence practice before adding the layer of possessive nouns. Consider some mild vocabulary lessons as a break for your student between the lessons. When you feel that it’s time, here is our suggestions for using our N4.1 – Possessive Nouns lesson. (Remember, this may be the first time your student has learned the apostrophe to show possession, and it is likely to be quite a departure from possession in the student’s native language).
We begin by using your student’s knowledge of possessive adjectives to introduce the concept of possessive nouns:
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We then take some time to introduce the apostrophe and how it is used with a noun to express possession:
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After some freer practice of gapfills and matching, we introduce two challenging concepts 1) the use of -‘s without a noun (as in Peter’s – implied car/book/hat), and 2) the apostrophe for plural nouns that end in -s (students’ homework). These are two very difficult concepts for beginner ESL students. We recommend reinforcing these concepts before moving on:
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The lesson proceeds with exercises that cover each angle of the possessive nouns. Two more challenging concepts are introduced before the end of the lesson 1) the use of of with things and places (the capital of China) and 2) the use of –‘s with words like yesterday, tomorrow etc… (yesterday’s lesson):
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These concepts are challenging for a beginner. It’s nor always possible to deliver all concepts in a single session, which why we recommend returning to our possessive nouns and adjectives lesson plans for periodic reinforcement. I find with most of my beginners I will come back to these lesson four to five times, over a period of two to three months.

Let us know which concepts your students found the most difficult to grasp!


  • Rey Nunez says:

    August 20, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    The lesson plan is very detailed. It is also designed with anticipation for the student’s capacity to understand the new concept.
    This is very well done.

    • James Heywood (Off2Class) says:

      August 20, 2014 at 10:48 pm

      Hi Rey,
      Thank you for your comment. We’re glad that you find our lesson plans useful. We hope that they help both students and teachers.
      Best wishes

  • Elle says:

    February 4, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    Well done, brilliant lesson plan!

    • James Heywood (Off2Class) says:

      February 4, 2015 at 1:47 pm

      Hi Elle,
      Thanks for your positive feedback. We’re happy that you enjoyed teaching with our possessive adjective and noun lesson plans.
      Best wishes,

  • María says:

    June 1, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    Fantastic! Really useful. Thank you very, very much.

    • Kris Jagasia says:

      June 1, 2015 at 1:17 pm

      Thanks Maria, we hope you enjoy teaching with these lessons as much as we do!

  • Doaa says:

    June 16, 2015 at 5:29 am

    I found it really useful,thank you so much .

    • Kris Jagasia says:

      June 16, 2015 at 9:48 am

      Thanks for stopping by Doaa!

  • Sanaa says:

    December 15, 2016 at 11:28 am

    Thank you so much.your site is a gift for is so useful.

    • James Heywood (Off2Class) says:

      December 15, 2016 at 3:43 pm

      We’re pleased that you find it useful!

  • Silvia Arapa says:

    March 8, 2020 at 12:52 pm

    Huge thanks!! This lesson plan was so helpful for me and my students..

    • Chris says:

      March 25, 2020 at 2:09 pm

      So glad you liked it!

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