Today during Writer's Workshop we were discussing nouns and plural nouns. The third grade students have a pretty good handle on nouns and quickly wrote down and shared some common nouns.
"What is the difference between a noun and a plural noun?" I asked them.
"Well, the plural noun is a specific name for a noun. Like Target," voiced one little one in a confident voice.
"How do you all feel about that information? Agree? Disagree?" I prompted.
I tried to keep my tone very neutral and not make eye contact so they couldn't detect that the answer was incorrect.
You see, the little ones can read a teacher's body language very, very well. Our voices and tones as well as our stance can give clues as to correctness and incorrectness of information. In the "old days" we would have just immediately corrected any wrong answer with a snappy, "No!" and wait for another brave one to attempt to guess the correct answer. But things have changed. We teachers now throw most things back to the students and let them think about things and figure them out. We don't just give them the answers. We make them work for it.
"Well, I agree," ventured one of the students. "Because nouns with words that are capitalized are called whatever that word was you said before. That p one."
A couple supportive friends nodded in agreement.
"No. That's not right," interrupted one. "I remember that those kinds of nouns that specifically name something are called proper nouns, not plural nouns."
"That's what I meant," replied the student who had answered before. "Like I said, it is a p word."
I giggled a bit as did a few others with the "p" comment. Never gets old.
"Yes, store names, like Target are indeed called proper nouns," I confirmed to the class. "But have we decided what plural nouns are yet?"
"Toys!" screeched one student, smiling. "A plural noun."
Again heads nodded in agreement. Anyone who can answer with such enthusiasm must be right.
"Then if toys is a plural noun, is boys?" I questioned them.
"Yes," came a round of voices.
"Is desk?" I continued.
This met with about a 75/25 yes/no. Their little eyes squinted and they tried to determine if I was trying to trick them.
"Desk is not," I stated. "So what's the difference? Talk at your table about what you're thinking."
Within seconds, the little ones had figured out what a plural noun was and wrote several examples in their writing notebook. They concluded that a plural noun means more than one and you spell it by adding an "s" to the word. Case in point: Boy --- boys and toy -- toys.
"Look!" I said suddenly, pointing towards the window. "A deer!" All heads turned and looked out the window. "Oh wait!" I added. "It's three deers!"
A couple astute ones laughed and immediately corrected me.
"It's not deers. It is deer," they said.
"Well I thought you said you just add an "s" to make a noun plural," I argued back.
You could practically see the little wheels spinning in their heads as they thought about this.
"Well, not always," one explained. "But most of the time you just add an "s" for more than one."
We continued for a few minutes with a lively discussion about goose and geese and mouse and mice and tooth and teeth and wolf and wolves and cherry and cherries.
And then I wrote the word 'dress' on the board.
"What about if I have 10 of these?" I said tapping the marker on the word on the board.
"Then it would be 10 dresses," answered several.
"So, I wouldn't have 10 dresss?" I hissed, spitting out the "sss". "Have you ever seen a word spelled with s-s-s?"
Our conversation continued for several more minutes and the kids were having lots of fun changing singular nouns to plural nouns, describing the patterns, and having more fun saying them out loud.
It was fifteen-twenty minutes in a productive, entertaining discussion about words.
It was a long, busy day at school but now it's time to relax.
My feets hurt.