Prepositions are primed with potential!
You can do lots of in class activities that review prepositions and engage your students at the same time. They don’t have to be complicated, either, since we use prepositions frequently in our everyday speech. Here are some fun activities that you can use with your ESL students to help them review prepositions in class, and as a bonus, most of them require little to no preparation on your part.
Explore These Amazing Preposition Activities
Effective activities don’t have to be complicated. They don’t have to cost a lot of money, either. This fun preposition activity requires nothing more than some paper scraps and a table to play on. Put your students in groups of two or three. Each group will need a collection of paper scraps, different sizes and different colors. Before starting the preposition activity, review with your students the vocabulary they will need to identify each paper scrap including colors, shapes, and sizes. When students are ready to play, have one person hold the paper scraps in their hands and drop them on the table from about two feet up. Students in that group should then take turns describing where the different paper scraps are in relation to each other using prepositions as they do. For example, a student might say the big triangle is underneath the small blue circle. After everyone has given two sentences about the paper positions, have the next person gather the scraps and drop them in a different arrangement.
Simon says is a simple children’s game where players have to listen carefully to the leader (dubbed Simon) and do whatever actions he or she calls out, that is provided she uses “Simon says” in her instructions. Players who do the wrong action or who act out an instruction that is not preceded by “Simon says” are out. Play continues until only one player remains, and that player then gets to be “Simon”. You can use this game to target prepositions in your ESL classes by including a preposition in every command that Simon says. For example, have students stand near their desk chair, and use the chair in your instructions. Simon says stand next to your chair. Simon says sit behind your chair. Simon says stand on your chair. Students will have fun playing the game and listening closely, and you will know that your time is productive since you are reviewing the all important prepositions your students need to learn as well as useful classroom vocabulary.
Bingo is a great game to challenge your students’ abilities to listen carefully and understand vocabulary, in this case prepositions. You don’t even have to spend a lot of time preparing Bingo cards since students can do that for themselves. Start by making copies of preposition illustrations such as this one. Make sure you have at least sixteen illustrations. Then have your students cut the illustrations apart and glue them into a four by four grid in any order they choose. You will also need a copy of the cards cut apart and shuffled together that you will use to call from. To play, choose one of your cards from your stack and describe the picture using the target preposition, e.g. the ball is under the box. Students must then place a marker on that picture on their grid (if they included that picture on their paper). Call one preposition after another until someone has four prepositions in a row marked – horizontal, vertical, or diagonal. That person should yell, “Bingo!” Check his card to make sure you called all the prepositions he marked off. Then play another round letting the winner call the cards for the rest of the class.
If you teach young ESL students, they will enjoy this preposition activity that lets them bring a special friend to class. The day before the activity, invite your students to bring a stuffed animal of choice to class, and bring some of your own, too, in case students forget. They will be using these animals for a preposition activity. (You can also have a show and tell time with their special friends to get an additional speaking activity into your day.) Cut small strips of felt in different colors, about five for each student, that will be “band-aids” for the activity. If you like, glue a small white piece of felt to one side of the rectangles to make them look more like band-aids. The felt should stay in place on any furry stuffed animal. Pass out the felt band-aids and get ready to play. Say to your class, “Poor puppy. He needs a band aid __________.” You can fill in any area of the body paired with a preposition such as the following: behind his ear, under his paw, around his tail, etc. Walk around the room and check that students are putting their band-aids in the correct location. If you like, allow students to call out where the puppy is hurt and needs a band-aid.
A Sunday Drive
Prepositions are great for giving directions. You can get your whole class involved in this large scale preposition review. To start, divide your class into groups of three or four students, and give each group a large piece of paper. On this paper, each group will draw the layout of a town. Have groups start by placing specific locations on their maps – library, police station, school, grocery store, etc. (This is a good chance to use vocabulary from your current unit. Just be creative with the buildings students must include on their maps such as soccer stadium for a sports unit and Kathy’s Kitchen for a food unit.) You can either have them draw these locations or give them a set of photocopied pictures. Once their buildings are on the map, students should draw in several roads throughout the town. Give each group a small toy car and then give them directions. “Drive past the bakery. Go behind the toy store. Etc.” As you give directions, watch each group move their car along the roads to make sure they are following the directions correctly. Alternatively, you could give each students a copy of a premade map and give them several directions in a row. At the end of your directions, check to see that each student arrived where you directed them.
These preposition activities are simple and engaging.
What are some of your favorite preposition activities?