Some Ideas for Teaching Prepositions

One day, early in my teaching career, I saw a beautiful book lying on the sidewalk. I picked it up and put it in my pocket, because it was so shiny, and had such a beautiful color. That afternoon when I was teaching, on a whim, I asked the class what I had in my pocket. There were all kinds of answers, but no one could guess “book.”This began a long relationship between my ESL classes and books. There is nothing like a book for teaching prepositions.

Originally, I had in mind teaching them the crazy sentence “My name is Tony Book.” I would use this to teach the body parts: toe, knee, chest, and finish with the head – nut. Next class when I started teaching, I asked them where is the book? At that point I realized what a goldmine of information can be taught, just using a simple book. Soon, the whole class knew that the book was in my pocket. Next, the book was in my hand. Then, the book was on my hand. Then, suddenly, the book was on her head!

Then it was on the window sill. Then the book was under the desk.

There is a wealth of prepositional phrases that can be taught. There is behind my back,under her chin, between two books, on the chair at the front of the classroom, on the floor at the back of the classroom, in the drawer. If you use nonsense phrases, like “in my ear,” and things like that, the students will enter into the fun of the activity. It is a good idea to write these phrases on the board as you try different ones. It is best to just try a few new phrases each class, and then review the ones from last time. In this way, the students are not overwhelmed with all the new words.

When the students are fairly competent, here is an activity that we used. (Note: if you haven’t any books, almost any small object will do. We used coffee beans in Brazil, because there are lots of them in Brazil.)

Divide the class into groups of two or three. Give each group the following instructions and let them practice together:

-Put the book on the desk.

-Put the book under a book.

-Put the book beside your friend.

-Put the book next to your pen.

-Put the book on your head.

-Put the book under your foot.

-Put the book behind your back.

-Put the book between two books.

-Put the book on the desk in front of your friend.

-Put the book on your friend’s shoulder.

-Put the book in your pocket.

-Put the book on your hand.

-Put the book beside the window.

-Put the book on the floor beside your foot.

These activities should be used along with the regular work supplied by the curriculum,and you will find that they add a lot to the teaching of prepositions, and you will find that the students remember the phrases.

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