What is Contraction Surgery?

What is contraction surgery? I wondered the same a few years ago and then started looking into it and loved what I saw. I was determined to make it happen for my students. But when you teach 1st grade (which I was in the first time I put this together), you need to wait until the students grasp a better idea of what a contraction is and how and when to use them.

Contraction Surgery Activities

For my school, that meant Winter of 1st grade. When I teach 2nd grade though, it can be done anytime during the year because they have already had exposure.

Contraction Surgery is when students get to take on the roll of being word surgeons. They get to take words apart, take out letters, put them back together and glue them into their surgery books. It is highly interactive and meaningful.

Here is my personal experience with Contraction Surgery and how you too, can create this experience for your students.

How it went for us

A few days before

I prepared the Surgery books ahead of time. My class is always a huge range of levels, so I was able to give the higher students harder contractions and the lower students the easier ones. It is great to be able to differentiate like this so that the lesson isn’t too difficult and frustrating for those just figuring it out.

I asked a hospital to donate the gloves and the masks. The gloves are always way to big and the kids fumble a lot with them, but it works out and they think it is the greatest thing ever to use them and they get to take them home. Next time I want to ask for the hair nets that they have!

Contraction Surgery Ideas

I got white butcher paper from the office all measured out to fit our long tables.

That’s it for the prep!

The Day of Surgery

We spend time in the morning talking about what surgery is.

Why would someone need it?

How do doctor’s prepare for surgery.

Tip!I tend to stay away from picture of surgical rooms. Maybe it is just me and the past experience with them, but when I look at the pictures it instantly give me anxiety. They are pretty scary how much is in that room.

I explain that doctors need to practice and study about the procedure before hand. I always start with an Anchor Chart about contractions, this is our studying about contractions before our surgery. This is really helpful to keep up in the room during surgery because they can refer to it. I remind them that doctors have notes that they refer to as well.

Getting some practice in before

Contraction Activities

We use the Contraction Surgery practice sheets in this unit to help us get the practice that we need. This is a good introduction for the students to practice on paper before doing the hands on. They also work great in Literacy Centers for extended practice.

Safety First!

Next, we discuss being sanitary before surgery. I explain the importance of washing their hands, wearing gloves, the mask and putting all the scraps in the Hazmat space. I also show them pictures of surgeons all gowned up and remind them of our safety procedures in our class.

Always Demonstrate how it works

Lastly, I go over the surgery books. This way when they come in from lunch they know exactly what to do. I show how each book works because they are differentiated. I explain how I find which word I am going to use, cut the words up, where I glue and what I write.

Room Transformation

Contraction Surgery Activities

We head out to lunch to take a break. During lunch, I transform the room. I put the white butcher paper on the tables, I draw a large rectangle in the middle with a Sharpie and label is Hazmat Space. I label each student’s spot with their name “Dr. Noah”, “Dr. Vera”, etc. I put their personalized surgery book, gloves, a mask, a pair of scissors and a glue stick in their spot.

Time for Surgery

Contraction Surgery Activities

When I get them from lunch, we all stop to wash our hands. I let them in one at a time to find their spot and they can begin. I walk around the room and assist as needed. The students are incredibly engaged in it. The is usually some quiet chatter, but I love how into their books they are.

I personally think that this experience needs to be repeated another day in the year, and since you have all the supplies, it is worth it to keep their books and do it again later. However, if you know this will be the only day that you can do this activity, send the books home with the students and encourage them to complete it at home.

I love the life experience that the students get with this project. I also love the idea of actually taking the words apart and forming a new word and adding in the apostrophe. They get to learn about the difficult job of a surgeon, how a hospital works and how contractions work.

If you are looking for a good lesson to be observed on, this is it!

Consider doing this project in your class. It doesn’t have to be fancy and all decorated. You don’t even need the gloves or mask to make it sink in. But, they can also be purchased at the dollar store or on Amazon.

Where do I get the supplies?

Contraction Surgery Activities

For the surgery books, step by step instructions and additional contraction activities CLICK HERE.

Here are some Amazon affiliate link for items that we used or would like to have used: MEDICAL GLOVES, LATEX FREE GLOVES, MEDICAL MASKS, HAIR NETS. The advantage to getting them on Amazon, they come in large amounts, so you can use them next year or split with another class. Maybe one teacher buys the gloves and the other boys the masks?

When approaching your local doctor’s office or hospital to ask for donations, show them the pictures in this article so they can see how their resources will be used. While there, if allowed, take some pictures of the other supplies they might have so you can show your students.

For additional real life learning ideas, check out our blog on helping your students start a small business using the Economics standards!

Please let me know if you have any questions! Have fun!


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