The Preposition Adventure Begins Here: 'Mr. Play Dough Head' And 3 Other Fresh Ideas For Teaching Prepositions

The Preposition Adventure Begins Here
'Mr. Play Dough Head' And 3 Other Fresh Ideas For Teaching Prepositions

Susan Verner
by Susan Verner 7,998 views |

Is it preposition time again in your classroom? These little words can be the source of big struggle for some ESL students, so they frequently turn up in every ESL teacher’s lesson plans.

The more activities and the more variety you use to teach and reinforce them, the better. Here are some activities that help review and practice prepositions that you may not have tried in your class before.

Want to Make Teaching Prepositions Fun? Try These Not So Typical Activities

  1. 1

    Is there a doctor in the house?

    If you teach younger ESL students, they will have a ball role playing physician while reviewing prepositions at the same time. Have an animal hospital day in your classroom, and invite each of your students to bring in a small stuffed animal. Your preparation is pretty simple: purchase a really large box of Band-Aids. When you are ready to do the activity, give each student several Band-Aids. Then tell them that their stuffed animal has come to them for medical assistance, and they will have to put the Band-Aid in the correct place on the animal. Give your students instructions, using prepositions, on where to put each Band-Aid – under the animal’s eye, behind his ear, above his knee, etc. Either have students check their positioning with a partner or check their Band-Aid placement yourself. Their animals may look a little worse for the wear when they come out of the activity covered in Band-Aids, but your students’ ability to understand prepositions will definitely be in the better.

    If you prefer not to do this activity as a class, it also makes a great learning center. Simply put one stuffed animal, some Band-Aids, and a list of where students should put the Band-Aids together for students to use during free learning periods. If you are worried about sticky stuff on your and your students’ animals, make Band-Aids out of felt. It will take you longer to prepare, but you can use the felt Band-Aids again and again, and you won’t be sending the plushies out sticky from head to toe.

  2. 2

    Mr. Play Dough Head

    If you have a collection of Mr. Potato Head pieces in your classroom or at home, you can use them to help your students review prepositions as well. I like to give each of my students a large lump of play dough to use as the base rather than the plastic potato. It gives us more flexibility where we put the facial features. Then I give each student a collection of plastic facial features. If you don’t have actual Mr. Potato Head pieces, you can still do this activity. Get some plastic outlet plugs and draw facial features on them or tape small pictures of a mouth, eyes, ears, moustache, etc. on the flat side of each one. Once your students have their play dough and their facial features, you are ready to do the activity. Give your students instructions on where to put each of the pieces in their play dough head/body. As you do, draw a simple picture of what the face should look like, but don’t let your students see it. When the faces are complete, show your picture and have students check their own feature placements. Have students remove their facial pieces and reform their dough to play another round. If you like, have one of your students come up and call out the instructions using prepositions as they do.

    If you are looking for a fun learning station, you can modify this activity to be a two person independent preposition practice center. Have two seats separated by a large piece of cardboard with the same materials on either side of the barrier. One student positions the facial features and tells the other person where they are putting them. The second person does the same on his face without commenting. Once the first face is complete and the second student has followed all the directions, students compare their faces to see if they look the same.

  3. 3

    Police Line: Do Not Cross

    If you have the room and enough time to prepare this activity, it’s sure to be one your students will remember. Create a crime scene in your classroom, and challenge your students to solve the crime. Start by thinking of a silly crime that could have been committed in your classroom. Then stage the scene complete with several clues. For example, if your fictional crime is a bear stole the students’ lunch boxes, have bear prints, turned out lunch bags, claw marks, an open refrigerator, etc. set up in a small corner of your room. Tape it off so your students cannot disturb it. When your students arrive in class, have them look at the crime scene. As they do, they should note any clues they see and where those clues are. These notes should be in complete sentences use prepositions to describe the location of each clue. If you like, have students share their theories in a written “police report” which also includes the clues they saw, or have volunteers offer their observations and speculate on the perpetrator and crime.

  4. 4

    Sticker Stories

    Not every preposition activity has to be as complicated as the crime scene. This activity requires no preparation and lets pairs of students practice using prepositions in their spoken language (though you may want to demonstrate the activity for your students before you have them work independently). Pair two students together and have them draw a simple scene – a bedroom, a meadow with a tree, a car – anything will work, and stick figures are perfectly legitimate. Then give the pair a sheet of stickers which they will add to their pictures. Students take turns adding one sticker at a time and telling a story as they do. Every time a student places a sticker on the page, she should use a preposition to say where it is and how it fits into the story. For example, if I started with a picture of a house, I might place a dog sticker in the living room and say, “The dog likes laying in front of the fire.” Then my partner might add a cat sticker behind the dog and say, “The cat sneaks up behind the dog. She is going to scare him.” The story and the stickers continue until all the stickers are on the page and the story is complete. If you want to extend the activity, have each person write out as much of their story as they can remember after all the stickers have been placed.

Prepositions will always be part of the ESL curriculum.

These unusual activities will let your students have a good time while they continue to develop their English skills and practice propositions at the same time.

What are your most unique preposition teaching activities?

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