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Lesson Plan . “Vague Pronouns” .

Dan Johnson

Vague Pronouns: a lesson in the usage of pronouns in narrative
The purpose of this lesson is two-fold. First, the students will practice the art of narrative focusing on sens-
ory details of a place in their life as well as the activities they routinely do there. Second, student pronoun use
is often vague, meaning that "he" or "it" obviously refers to something, but because of the usage, I can't figure
out who or what it is they are referring to. In this lesson, students will read and analyze a mentor text, write
their own narrative vignette, and analyze their use of pronouns in their vignette.

"How can I effectively and clearly use pronouns in a narrative?"


Goal (qualitative outcome): Objective (measurable result):
Students will be able to: At the end of this lesson students will have:
•practice writing a personal nar- •written their own narrative modeled after the sample
rative •analyzed pronoun use in a sample narrative
•use pronouns in a way that
•analyzed pronoun use in their narrative
avoids confusion

1.Read the excerpt from Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl once through so students understand the
2.Review Dahl's story and talk about its successes.
3.Students to make a list some of places they go to around town and what they do there.
4.Students share their list with a partner and talk about what some of their places are like and what they
5.Students make a list of sensory words (adjectives, verbs, nouns) they could use in their story.
6.Students write a narrative vignette describing their place and what they do there.
7.Discuss with the students the definition and purpose of the pronoun in English.
8.Share with students a sentence in need of pronouns such as:
Mary and Mary's friend Bill go to a store near Mary's house. At the store, Bill sees Bill's teacher, Mr.
9.Work with students to rewrite the sentences using pronouns and talk about how the use of these pro-
nouns improves the readability of the sentences:
Mary and her friend Bill go to the store near her house. At the store, Bill sees his teacher, Mr. Hernandez.
10.Add a sentence the creates a vague use of pronouns such as:
Then he steals a pack of gum.
11.Discuss why the use of "he" in this sentence doesn't work. Who is it referring to, Bill or Mr. Hernandez?
12.Students work in partner groups to:
a.Reread Dahl's narrative highlighting the nouns in one color and the pronouns in another.
b.Connect the pronouns to the nouns they replace with a line (see attached examples).
13.Review Dahl’s narrative as a class and discuss pronouns in the piece.
14.Students work in partner groups to:
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Lesson Plan . “Vague Pronouns” . Dan Johnson their narrative vignettes and share comments
b.repeat the process of highlighting for each narrative.
15.Review the process with students and reflect on the importance of clear pronoun use.

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Lesson Plan . “Vague Pronouns” . Dan Johnson

As you read the text, highlight each new noun that is introduced. Next highlight each
pronoun the author uses using another color. Last, connect each pronoun to the noun it re-
places using a line.


The candy shop was the very center of our lives. To us, it was what a bar is to a drunk,

or a church to a Bishop. Without it, there would have been little to live for. But it had one

terrible drawback, this candy shop. The woman who owned it was a horror. We hated her

and had good reason for doing so.

Her name was Mrs. Pratchett. She was a small skinny old hag with a mustache on her

upper lip. She never smiled. She never welcomed us when we went in, and the only times

she spoke were when she had said things like, “I’m watchin’ you so keep your thievin’ fin-

gers off them chocolates!” Or “I don’t want you in here just to look around! Either start

payin’ or start leavin’!”

But by far the most loathsome thing about Mrs. Pratchett was the filth that clung around

her. Her apron was grey and greasy. Her blouse had bits of breakfast all over it, toast-

crumbs and tea stains and splotches of dead egg-yolk. It was her hands, however, that dis-

turbed us most. They were disgusting. They were black with dirt and grime.

- Roald Dahl

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