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Language and Communication use determiners the a an appropriately  This resource has been viewed by a moderator.


Use "the", "a" and "an" correctly

Early years skill:not specified
Early years typical range:not specified
P-scales/Curriculum skill:English Speaking
P-scales/Curriculum level:P8
TAP skill:Expressive Language
TAP level:TAP48
Pre/Nat. Curriculum Area:not specified
Pre/Nat. Curiculum Standard:not specified
Section:Primary (5-11yrs) info
Activity/strategy name and materials required How to do the activity Key principles for doing the activity and comments
'The' or 'a'?

Copies of pages of text the child can read easily

Red pen

Green pen

(1) Talk about how 'the' and 'a' are used differently - 'the' is used when we are talking about a thing and we know which one we are talking about. 'A' is used when we are talking about a thing and we could be talking about any example of that thing.

(2) Tell the child to read the text you give them. Explain that each time they come to the word "a", they should put a red circle round it. Each time they come to the word "the", they should put a green circle round it. Each time, ask them to explain why you use that word, and how changing it would change the meaning of the sentence (e.g. how "the children went inside the house" is different from "the children went inside a house").

Miniature animals

Toy animals of various sizes, colours and kinds

(1) Talk about the use of "a" and "the" as in the activity ("The or a") above.

(2) Arrange groups of plastic animals and some of the same animals individually. These should include large and small animals of different kinds; animals in different colours.

(3) Ask the child to select, for example: a big tiger (if there is more than one to choose from) or the big tiger (if there is only one); a/the red tiger; all the tigers, etc.

(4) As you or the child asks for the objects, you could hold up or point to an appropriate "a" or "the" flashcard.

Stress the appropriate word (the or a) when you are speaking.

'a' or 'an'

Cards showing each letter of the alphabet

Pictures of single objects starting with a vowel

Pictures of single objects starting with a consonant

Pictures of single objects starting with a vowel that the child can stick into a book





1. Using the letters, ask the child to sort them into vowels and consonants.

2. explain that when we talk about something that has a name which starts with a consonant, we use 'a', but when we talk about something that has a name which starts with a vowel we use 'an'

3. Use the pictures. Mix them up. The child has to sort them into 2 groups based on whether they start with a vowel or not.

4. Repeat the sorting activity, but this time ask the child to name the picture using 'a' or 'an' as appropriate (e.g. "a cat" or "an elephant")

5. Use the pictures that the child can stick in their book. The child chooses a picture and cuts it out. They stick it in their book and write a phrase underneath, remembering to use the word "an".

Make sure the child understands you are now working on 'a' and 'an' not 'a' and 'the'

Avoid using pictures that show more than one object as you don't use 'a' or 'an' when you are talking about groups of objects.

If the child finds writing difficult, they can dictate sentences for you to write

'The', 'a' or 'an'?

An old catalogue such as the Argos catalogue.

The child has to describe what they can see, using "the", "a" or "an" as appropriate (e.g. "I'd like a new bike, but I don't want the blue bike because it's for young children").

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