This blog series is written by Julia Domenicucci, an editor at Macmillan Learning, in conjunction with Mignon Fogarty, better known as Grammar Girl.
Today’s blog post will center around podcasts about pronouns, loosely tying into International Pronouns Day, which is celebrated on the third Wednesday of October. This day focuses on personal pronouns, and, according to their website, “seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace.” Learn more about this volunteer-run campaign on their website, pronounsday.org.
Podcasts have been around for a while, but their popularity seems to increase every day—and for good reason! They are engaging and creative, and they cover every topic imaginable. They are also great for the classroom: you can use them to maintain student engagement, accommodate different learning styles, and introduce multimodality.
LaunchPad and Achieve products include assignable, ad-free Grammar Girl podcasts, which you can use to support your lessons. You can assign one (or all!) of these suggested podcasts for students to listen to before class. Each podcast also comes with a complete transcript, which is perfect for students who aren’t audio learners or otherwise prefer to read the content. To learn more about digital products and purchasing options, please visit Macmillan's English catalog or speak with your sales representative.
If you are using LaunchPad, refer to the unit “Grammar Girl Podcasts” for instructions on assigning podcasts. You can also find the same information on the support page "Assign Grammar Girl Podcasts."
Assignment A - The History of They as Gender-Neutral: Assign students to listen to the podcast. Then, ask students to research the history of they as a gender-neutral pronoun using at least two sources. With their research, have each student write a brief paragraph outlining that history--and don’t forget to have them cite their sources!
Either during class or asynchronously, put students into groups of three or four. First, have them evaluate the sources’ credibility. They should then select the two or three most credible sources. Assign them to write a brief podcast script about the history of they as a gender-neutral pronoun. They should use and cite the two or three most credible sources, which can include the Grammar Girl podcast.
The podcast script should be about 2-3 minutes long when read aloud, and should cover questions such as:
When was they first used as a gender-neutral pronoun?
Has they become more or less popular over time, or has that popularity stayed the same?
How do people use they as a gender-neutral pronoun today?
Assignment B - Respecting Personal Pronouns: Assign students to listen to the podcast. Then, look up a recent article about respecting someone’s personal pronouns, perhaps in relation to “International Pronouns Day” (try searching “International Pronouns Day” in the News section of Google, or checking the official #PronounsDay on social media). Have each student note down one thing they learned from the podcast, and one thing they learned from the article.
As a class, discuss what students learned or found interesting. You might also consider discussing ways students can introduce their own pronouns in daily life, or discussing the scope and variety of pronouns people might choose to use for themselves.
If your class is too big to do this together, break the students into groups of three to five.
Discussing Other Pronouns
Pronouns and Antecedents
Pronouns for People and Animals
Who versus Whom, Advanced
Assignment: Assign students to listen to one or more of the above podcasts. Ask them to take a recent piece of their writing and identify an error they have made in pronoun usage. If they can’t find an error, ask them to identify an area where they questioned which pronoun was correct. This piece of writing could be an essay, but it might also be an email, a Tweet, a text--anything that is school appropriate and that they are comfortable sharing with the class.
If your class is synchronous: during class, have students share their examples and discuss.
If your class is asynchronous: have students submit their example to you. If you like, you can tally up common areas of difficulty, and assign further resources on pronouns.
More Grammar Girl Activities
If you are looking for other activities, be sure to check out the other Grammar Girl posts, especially: