How to Teach Prepositions to Junior Students

When you think of prepositions, boring grammar drills flood your mind. Right? Whilst drilling is useful in terms of pronunciation and retaining to memory, it isn’t enough for students to understand or visualize how prepositions work. They must see them in action.

In this post, we will be looking at how to teach each of the different types of prepositions— prepositions of time, place and movement— in a fun and interactive way.

Prepositions? What are they?

Simply, prepositions are words which link nouns, pronouns and phrases to other words in a sentence. They usually describe the time when something happens, the position of something or the way in which something is done.

1 Prepositions of time

Common examples of time prepositions include: at, on, in, before and after. They are used to help indicate when something happened, happens or will happen.

My method of teaching and testing prepositions of time is through a simple Q&A game. Take turns asking and answering questions with students, making sure to elicit full sentences each time. Such as:

  1. At what time do you go to school?
  2. Do you watch TV after dinner every day?
  3. What do you like to do during the summer vacation?
  4. Do you take an English class on Saturday?

2 Prepositions of place

Prepositions of place, being the easiest to teach through TPR, are more rigid than those of time. The most common place prepositions are ‘on’, ‘in’, and ‘at’. However, many others are used to describe specific positions.

A foolproof method of teaching prepositions of place is through a mimic activity. Use a common object, such as a toy or book (you will need at least two), and your face to display various positions. Have the student mimic your actions whilst verbally stating the position of the object. For example, ‘the ball is next to my face’, ‘the ball is in front of my face’.

3 Prepositions of movement

Prepositions of movement are less abstract than prepositions of place and time, making them easier to understand. Essentially, they describe how something or someone moves from one place to another. Whilst the most commonly used preposition of movement is ‘to’, which usually indicates that there is movement towards a specific destination, many others are used, too.

As with that of prepositions of time, perhaps the best way to teach and test this is though conversation or comprehension.

When reading a passage, ask specific questions: ‘Where did Jenny go on Saturday?’, or ‘Where do you think Andy is going?’.  Alternately, ask the student personal questions about their day/weekend, such as ‘Where did you go this weekend?’

There are said to be about 150 prepositions in the English language, without which the sentences we speak, read, and write would be difficult to understand. Often you will find that students are familiar with these prepositions, and that they use them frequently even without knowing their technical terms.

How do you prefer to teach prepositions to your junior students? Did you find this post helpful? Share with us in the comments below!


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