What is an appositive? An appositive is a word or group of words that explain or define a noun. Appositives follow the nouns they explain.
When to Use Commas
Appositives can be either restrictive or nonrestrictive. I teach students to first locate the appositive by finding the phrase that describes the noun. Next, I ask students to read the sentence skipping the appositive. If the meaning of the sentence is clear without the appositive, then it is nonrestrictive [CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.6.2.A]. Use commas to separate nonrestrictive elements from the rest of the sentence.
For example, in the following sentence a crossbreed mutt is helpful information, but does contain essential information.
My dog, a crossbreed mutt, loves to play with Frisbees.
In this example, Matthew Johnson is extra information that simply tells the reader the name of the student.
A bored student, Matthew Johnson, fell asleep in class.
Notice that the sentence is clear without the appositive.
A bored student fell asleep in class.
Sarah Pecorino created the physical feelings clip art used on this anchor chart. It can be found here.
As the anchor chart points out, appositives may be located in the middle or end of a sentence. Depending on the location of the appositive, use one or two commas to separate it from the rest of the sentence.
One generalization is that one word appositives do not need commas. Warn students that while this is often true, the sentence must be analyzed. The students must ask, “Is the information in the appositive essential?” To understand this better, look at the third example on the anchor chart above.
Uses of Appositives
Kate Hadfield created the dog clip art used on this anchor chart. It can be found here.
The anchor chart explains three uses of appositives. The first is to combine short choppy sentences. [CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.5.3.A, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.6.3.A] The second is to make sentences clear to the reader. The final example illustrates how adding an appositive can expand a short sentence to give it more interest. By using appositives, students vary sentences. [CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.6.1.E].
This Youtube video goes over the three examples seen here.
Click here to download the organizer to use with your students. The organizer contains the exact same information as the anchor charts. Using the two together makes a great mini-lesson.