How To Teach Prepositions Of Position To Young Learners
A quick summary of what prepositions to teach kids and how to do so.
Written by Alex Case for EnglishClub
Students whose L1 has postpositions rather than prepositions might never fully get the hang of which is which in “A is under B” and very young learners can still be learning exactly what “in front of” means as a concept, but activities with “on”, “in” and “under” can be useful and fun from as early as three years old. Prepositions is the closest thing to a grammar point that they can cope with at that stage (other things like plurals and third person S that are usually dealt with being acquired late if ever). Being able to tell students “stand in front of the whiteboard” and “put your pens in your bags” is also obviously invaluable for classroom management. In addition, the topic of prepositions is infinitely adaptable to different levels, with loads of games with just “in”, “on” and “under” for beginners and issues like the difference between “in front of”/“opposite” and “in the corner”/“on the corner” for those who think they know everything. As you will see from the activities below, it is very easy to combine prepositions of position with other language points such as classroom objects, household objects, animals and transport.
The approximate order I would present prepositions of position in is:
As well as the conceptual and translation difficulties mentioned in the introduction, possible problems when teaching this point include:
Activities to practice prepositions of position can be broadly divided into:
There are so many good activities for teaching prepositions that there are whole articles on this site about prepositions of position practice through video, TRP, drawing and craft, and realia and flashcards. This article will deal with songs and picture books, plus a few ideas that don’t fit into any of those categories.
Songs and chants for prepositions of position
I only know two songs from textbooks that are specific to prepositions of position, and I wouldn’t especially recommend either of them. Instead, I prefer to adapt body and classroom objects to this grammar point. For example, before each “verse” of Head Shoulders Knees and Toes you can shout out a preposition, e.g. getting students to put their hands under the head, knees and toes and then in front of their eyes, ears, mouth and nose.
Unlike songs, there are loads of great books specific to prepositions of position. The all-time classic is Where’s Spot, and I’ve written a whole article on how to exploit this picture book in EFL classes in ways like students hiding a little cut-out Spot in different positions in the book once you’ve read it through once. Where’s Wally (= Where’s Waldo) can also be used if students are told they can’t point but instead need to explain where Wally and other characters are. There are also EFL storybooks specific to this point from companies like Apricot Books.
With higher level classes, you can also introduce a CLIL component with topics like animal habitats, traditional clothing, fashion, or living a greener lifestyle.
Other activities for prepositions of position
Prepositions magazine search
Prepositions normal or strange
Prepositions sentence completion guessing game
Written by Alex Case for EnglishClub | November 2012
There are links to more than 400 articles and 1000 worksheets plus 1500 blog posts by Alex Case on TEFLtastic blog.