BBC Home
Explore the BBC


Teachers: Literacy: Word

Last Updated: Wednesday May 25 2005 10:53 GMT

Proper nouns

British Army tracker dog Max, who is a German Shepherd, and his handler Corporal Steve Edgeler have been awarded a medal for their peacekeeping duties in Kosovo

Max has been voted the most popular name in Britain - if you're an animal!

Students learn the function and features of proper nouns.

Learning aims

Students learn:

  • The definition of a proper noun
  • That capital letters are used at the beginning of proper nouns

Distribute copies of this worksheet (based on a story) to the class and ask them to read it.

This dog's called Lily!

Ask students: What is wrong with the article? The capital letters at the beginning of the proper nouns are missing.

Explain to students what a proper noun is:

    Proper nouns put names to faces;
    They're used for people, pets and for places.
    If you're writing about Ben the red setter
    The name of the dog starts with a capital letter.
Ask students to add capital letters to the proper nouns in the story.

Ask students to list the proper nouns in the article under these headings:

  • Name e.g. Max
  • Place e.g. Britain
  • Not sure e.g. Chihuahuas or chihuahuas
Ask class to read out their not sure list and ask other classmates to classify them.

E.g. Chihuahuas are named after the state of Chihuahua in Mexico. For this reason, the noun is sometimes written with a capital C.

Also explain to pupils that adjectives describing nationalities also begin with a capital letter e.g. British, Swiss, American.

Main activity

Students write a profile of their own pet or describe a pet they would like to own.

Students should include these categories:

  • Name of pet:
  • Type of animal: e.g. dog
  • Male or female?:
  • Age:
  • Birthplace:
  • Description of what pet looks like:
  • Pet's top skills: e.g. can play football.
  • How pet got their name: e.g. Rocky is named after Sylvester Stallone's character in the film about boxing.

Students can write their pet's profile on this worksheet.
This dog's called Bumpy - like the one from Noddy!

Students use the profile to write a few paragraphs about their pet and how they got their name, making sure they use capital letters at the beginning of proper nouns.

Students rewrite the description of their pet, using lower case letters at the beginning of proper nouns. They pass them onto another student who adds the capital letters in the correct place.

Extension activity

Students write an entry in an encyclopaedia for an imaginary country or land. They create names for the capital city, other major cities, rivers and an adjective to describe the inhabitants' nationality.

Introduce students to other types of nouns using this poem:

A noun's the name of any thing;
An animal, table or a ring.
Almost everything you touch or see
Is a common noun, like hand or knee.
Proper nouns put names to faces;
They're used for people and for places.
If you're writing about Ben the red setter
The name of the dog starts with a capital letter. A collective noun is a group of things;
A flock of sheep or a pair of wings.
The shape of an abstract noun you can't guess.
They are thoughts or feelings like happiness.

Ask students to make a list of pet related nouns under the headings:

  • Common nouns e.g. ball
  • Proper nouns e.g. Max
  • Abstract nouns e.g. curiosity

Ask students to match these collective nouns to the correct group of animals.

This is available as a printable worksheet.

A litter of kittens

1. A colony of ...
2. A blessing of ...
3. A gaggle of ...
4. A herd of ...
5. A litter of ...
6. A plague of ...
7. A shoal of ...
8. A nest of ...
9. A leap of ...
10. A float of ...

A. elephants
B. vipers
C. ants
D. locusts
E. crocodiles
F. kittens
G. unicorns
H. leopards
I. geese
J. fish


1C. A colony of ants
2G. A blessing of unicorns
3I. A gaggle of geese
4A. A herd of elephants
5F. A litter of kittens
6D. A plague of locusts
7J. A shoal of fish
8B. A nest of vipers
9H. A leap of leopards
10E. A float of crocodiles

Students research the meaning of their own name. There is a useful link on the right hand side.


Remind students that proper nouns describe people and places and begin with a capital letter.

Students take turns to read out descriptions of their pets and how they got their names while their classmates make a tally of how many proper nouns they hear. Listeners then check with the reader to see if they were right.

For hundreds more news-based lessons, click on Teachers on the left hand side.

BBC Homepage >> | CBBC Homepage >>

Meet the Team | Help | Contact Us | News sources | Privacy & Cookies Policy