Lesson 3: apostrophes for possessives

Links to the Victorian Curriculum – English

Level 5:

  • Understand how the grammatical category of possessives is signalled through apostrophes and how to use apostrophes with common and proper nouns (VCELA322)

Links to the Victorian Curriculum – English as an Additional Language (EAL)

Pathway B

Reading and viewing

Level BL:

Level B1:

Level B2:

  • Understand and use a range of learnt metalanguage to talk about text (VCEALL363)

Level B3:

  • Understand and use the appropriate metalanguage to talk about the structures and features of a text (VCEALL442)


Level BL:

  • Copy basic punctuation as part of writing work (VCEALL238)

Level B1:

  • Use basic punctuation, such as full stops and capital letters, appropriately (VCEALL319)

Level B2:

Level B3:

  • Use a range of punctuation marks consistently and correctly (VCEALL478)

Theory/practice connections

Writers are often confused about the use of the apostrophe to show possession. Young writers might use the apostrophe correctly but might not be able to explain its purpose or how to use it. The apostrophe is a punctuation mark and when it is omitted or not used correctly in a word, the word is deemed as being spelt incorrectly. 

The incorrect use of apostrophes can also affect the meaning of a piece of writing, making it difficult for readers to understand (Snowball & Bolton, 1999, p.196).

Students can be encouraged and guided to investigate the use of the apostrophe of possession in their reading and writing. 

Learning intentions

We are learning to use the apostrophe to show possession.

Success criteria

I understand where to place the apostrophe in words to show possession.

Role of the writer

Text encoder – knowing the apostrophe of possession to spell words correctly.

Group size

Whole class, or small group (4-6 students).

Lesson sequence

  1. Reread page of information text ‘Koala’ to or with students during Shared Reading session.
  2. Highlight the opening statement in the text on an interactive whiteboard. Australia’s number one pinup marsupial, often (incorrectly) called a Koala Bear.
  3. Ask the students to identify the punctuation mark - apostrophe – and explain its use in the statement. The apostrophe is used to show that the number one pinup marsupial belongs to Australia. Teacher introduces this punctuation mark as an apostrophe of possession.
  4. Continue reading through the text with students, asking them to identify any other examples of the apostrophe of possession. These are also highlighted in the text.
    • in its mother’s pouch…
    • its mother’s pap…
    Discuss the role of the apostrophe in each of the examples, for example, the -‘s shows that the pouch belongs to the mother.
  5. Write examples and explanations on a reference chart. In subsequent reading and writing lessons add other sentences or phrases that contain an apostrophe of possession. Write an explanation alongside each example. These might also include instances where the noun finishes with an -s. In these cases, there are two alternatives, for example, James’s car or James’ car.
  6. Remember to consider other examples where the students might notice the use of an apostrophe, for example, contractions they’d climb the gum trees… and other cases of possession …its mother… where no apostrophe is used to show possession. In each case ask the students to explain why the apostrophe is used or not used by the writer and why it is placed where it is.
  7. Eventually after many discussions about the use of apostrophes to show possession in texts that are read and in their own writing, ask students to articulate their understandings about the use of apostrophes of possession (Snowball & Bolton, 1999:199). These understandings must be in their own words and can be used to assess the students’ knowledge. Students might also write about their learning in their spelling journals.
  8. Students are also encouraged to reread and proofread their own writing to check for the correct use of apostrophes of possession. This might be done in pairs initially before students proofread independently.


Use of whole, small, partner and individual work throughout the lesson offers differing levels of support for students.