A noun phrase is built on a noun, which is a person, place or thing. The entire phrase provides specific information about the subject of the sentence. Early elementary children learn the concepts of nouns in kindergarten or first grade, and build on that knowledge to encompass noun phrases as they get older. Rote memorization of noun phrases is unlikely to build enthusiasm or engage your students. Instead, introduce a few interactive games to encourage interest in the topic and help build retention of the material.
Complete the Sentence
Begin by writing the name of one of your students on your chalkboard or whiteboard. Invite that student to come forward and add words to turn her name, as the subject of the sentence, into a noun phrase. Remind your students that a noun phrase tells something about the subject of the sentence. Your student may write something that describes her appearance or something that describes her personality. Repeat the exercise until each student has had a turn to write a noun phrase about herself. Alternatively, leave the name blank and write a description of a student in your class. Invite students to guess who the subject of the sentence is. The student with the first correct answer gets to write the next description.
Describe a Friend
Divide the class into two teams. Separate them by placing each team on one-half of the classroom. Divide your chalkboard or whiteboard in half by drawing a line down the middle. Choose a student in your class to become the subject of the noun phrase. Have one person from each team take his place in front of the chalkboard or whiteboard. Give them the name of your chosen student and ask them to write a noun phrase about that person. The first student to write a correct noun phrase earns a point for his team. After all of your students have been the subject of a noun phrase, the team with the most points is the winner.
Noun Phrase Hunt
Give your students a photocopied selection from a favorite class book, and challenge them to find all the noun phrases within the text. Ask each student to circle the noun phrases as they find them. For an added challenge, time your students for two or three minutes, and see who can find the most noun phrases in that amount of time. Repeat the game with different selections of text.
Record Noun Phrases
Because noun phrases are meant to be descriptive of the subject of the sentence, they can get quite long. Challenge your students to see who can write the longest noun phrase. Allow your students to choose the subject of their sentences, and ask them to write the longest sentence they can come up with. The winner is the student with the sentence that includes the most words. Alternatively, bring an interesting object to class, and ask your students to write their noun phrases about the object.
Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.