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Common & Proper Nouns Games & Activities

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

Teaching nouns doesn't have to be boring! Injecting a little fun into the process can get your students engaged and learning. This lesson outlines games and activities designed to teach common and proper nouns in a classroom setting.

Is It Common or Proper?

Before using any of the activities described in this lesson, it's important to review the basics of common and proper nouns. You can begin by asking your students what the differences are between the two and then reviewing the following information.

Definitions

Common nouns name general items and are not capitalized unless they occur at the beginning of a sentence, e.g., chair, tree, bed, house, friend, cat.

Proper nouns identify specific nouns and are always capitalized no matter where they appear in a sentence, e.g., Microsoft, Dr. Smith, Nike, Samsung.

Examples

Some examples of common and proper noun usage are:

  • I just bought a pair of Nikes (proper noun), because they are great shoes (common noun).
  • I have many friends (common noun), but my best friend is Jenny (proper noun).

Proper Nouns around the Room

This game works great if your classroom is decorated with posters and other signage that includes text. If not, try to take students to a location such as the school library, which does have wall decorations with text.

  1. Put students into pairs.
  2. Give the pairs a few minutes to move around the room identifying and writing down all of the proper nouns they can find on the walls.
  3. After students have taken their seats, have a class discussion about which proper nouns the students found and be sure to correct any errors.

If you want, reward the team who finds the most correct proper nouns.

From Common to Proper

In this activity, students will need to connect a proper noun to a common noun. First, write the following list of common nouns on the board. (Feel free to add your own common nouns to the list.)

  1. Car
  2. Airline
  3. Shoes
  4. Teacher
  5. Video game
  6. Basketball team
  7. Computer
  8. Phone
  9. TV channel
  10. Breakfast cereal

Give students a few minutes to write down one or two proper nouns for each common noun. Possible answers include:

  1. Car (Toyota, Ford, Honda)
  2. Airline (Delta, United, Southwest)
  3. Shoes (Nike, Reebok, Adidas)
  4. Teacher (Mrs. Jones, Mr. Williams)
  5. Video Game (Call of Duty, Super Mario Brothers, Candy Crush)
  6. Basketball team (Chicago Bulls, LA Lakers, Denver Nuggets)
  7. Computer (Dell, Apple, HP)
  8. Phone (Nokia, Samsung)
  9. TV Channel (The Weather Channel, The History Channel, Showtime)
  10. Breakfast cereal (Cheerios, Captain Crunch, Wheaties)

When time is up, ask for volunteers to come up and write their answers on the blackboard. Finally, have a discussion about which common nouns have more proper nouns associated with them. You can also ask students to write sample sentences that contain both the common noun and the proper noun. For example:

  • My father needed a new car so he bought a Toyota, but I think he should have bought a Ferrari.
  • I want a new computer for Christmas and it has to be an Apple.

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