Prepositions are a very common topic in many beginner ESL or EFL textbooks, especially for children. A preposition is a word that basically indicates a location or some other kind of relationship between nouns or pronouns. It can’t actually be considered a preposition unless there’s a related noun or pronoun that goes with it, which is called the object of the preposition.
Here are some of the most common prepositions that you may want to teach your English students.
Top 10 ESL Preposition Games
These are only a few of the most common English prepositions—there are quite literally hundreds of them! Now, let’s get into the preposition games ESL that you might want to consider using. They’ll spice up your class and turn something normally quite boring into one of the best classes of the year.
Without further ado, let’s get to the ESL preposition games and activities.
#1: Picture Prompt
This is a quick warm-up that can also be used as a kind of test at the end of your preposition unit. The way it works is that you put a picture up on the screen that lends itself to lots of prepositions. For example, a desk or table with lots of stuff on it, or a messy house.
Then, there are a few things you can do depending on the level of students. If a bit higher level, leave the picture on the screen for a minute or two, take it down and then ask some questions:
“Where is the yellow book?”
“Is the pen on the right side of the desk?
For lower-level students, or younger children, you can do this activity with the picture still up and work together as a class. You can find out more details about this simple, but classic ESL game or activity here: Picture Prompt ESL Game.
I’m ALL about using flashcards in my English classes with children. You can make or buy your own, but the secret is that you can often buy a set as a supplement to most kids ESL textbooks. This has the huge advantage of having the exact vocabulary words that you’re teaching.
The way you can use them for prepositions is to choose from nouns. Then make three piles of 3 and place them standing up on the whiteboard ledge. Make sure all the students can see which card you place where.
Then, ask a question like, “Where’s the dinosaur?”
The students would have to answer, “The dinosaur is behind the fish.”
Check out other ways to use flashcards when teaching English to children here: ESL Flashcards for Children.
#3: Disappearing Text
If you want to help your students lock in the sentence structure related to prepositions, then you’ll want to consider using disappearing text. It can get a little bit tricky with all the small little words in there which need to be in a precise order.
The way it works is that you write a sentence on the board (containing some prepositions). The students say it out loud together. Then, erase the first few words and the students have to repeat it again. Continue until you have no words left! This can be a fun way to review a key sentence at the end of every class.
Find out more details here: The Disappearing Sentence ESL Activity.
#4: ESL Board Games
I LOVE to play board games in real life, so maybe that’s why I like to use them with my students too? Whatever the case, they lend themselves really well to prepositions if you tailor the questions to what’s happening inside a classroom.
You can include questions like the following:
- Where is the teacher?
- What’s in front of you (behind you) right now?
- Is there a window next to the TV screen?
Find out more about this fun ESL game here: Board Games for English Learners. Or, check out this short video below for even more information:
#5: Total Physical Response
One of the best strategies for teaching English to young children is to get them up and moving around the classroom. One fun way to do this is to use Total Physical Response (TPR). This is a well-known language teaching methodology and it works especially well for prepositions.
You could get students to touch something…
- ON the desk
- IN FRONT OF the whiteboard
- UNDER your chair
- BEHIND the teacher
Or you could give basic commands like…
- Stand BEHIND your desk
- Crawl UNDER the table
- Go to the BACK of the room
You can find out more here: Total Physical Response in the English Classroom.
#6: The Memory Circle Game
This is an extremely versatile ESL game that can be used for a variety of situations, including names, grammar or vocabulary. In this, you can use it for prepositions.
The first student says a sentence, using a preposition about what they see in the classroom. For example, “There is a pen ON the desk.”
The second student repeats this sentence and then adds their own, using a different preposition. The game continues until someone can’t do it correctly. They sit down and the winner is the last one standing. Or, you can end the game with the teacher repeating all the sentences (I usually feign like I’m having trouble and get the students to help me!).
Learn more about this fun memory game here: The ESL Memory Circle.
I’m sure you may have played taboo as a party game before. The way it works is that you try to get your team to say a specific word, but you can’t use a list of certain other words. I adapt it for my English classes and let students use any word they want, except for the word in question.
In this case, use prepositions. For example, if the secret word is on, the student could say something like, “The pen is ___ the desk.” His team would hopefully guess “on!”
It’s a simple way to close out the unit on prepositions by having some fun with a small group of students. Learn more here: Taboo ESL Speaking Activity.
#8: Draw a Picture, ESL Style
A fun activity to work on prepositions is this simple way to draw a picture. The way it works is that one person looks at a picture secretly. Things like aliens or monsters often work well. Then, they have to describe the picture to their partner who has to draw it.
For example, your students might say, “The alien has 10 arms with 3 fingers on each arm. There is a big face and on the face there are 3 eyes.”
As you can see, the use of prepositions in this activity would be almost endless. At the end, don’t forget to highlight the prepositions used with the class. More information here: ESL Secret Drawing Activity.
#9: ESL Preposition Songs
I’m a terrible singer, but kids love learning English through songs. What to do? Turn to YouTube of course! It’s a simple way to incorporate singing into my classroom, but without actually requiring any sort of musical talent of my own. Here’s one example of a song you could use to teach prepositions to kids:
#10: Include Prepositions in your Daily Routine
It’s super important to have a daily routine when teaching English to anybody, but particularly young children. They thrive off what they can come to know and expect. For my routine, I’ll include some simple questions like the following:
- What day of the week is it?
- How’s the weather today?
- What time is it right now?
You may also want to include some simple questions related to prepositions. For example, where are your mom and dad AT right now? How many pens are ON the desk? Is there a boy or girl sitting NEXT TO me?
You get the picture. Change it up to include a few different ones each class. You can find out more about this English teaching strategy here: ESL Daily Routine for Kids.
ESL Preposition Worksheets
If you’re looking for some top picks for sources of preposition worksheets, you have a few different options. There is always a practice section in the workbook for this specific unit. Or, you may find more worksheets in the teacher’s resource or student homework book. You could also consider making your own from scratch.
Finally, consider one of these sources for ESL preposition worksheets online:
What about Online Practice for Prepositions?
Here are some of our favourite online sources for preposition practice and quizzes:
Did you Like These ESL Activities?
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And the best part is that the book is well-organized into sections, including speaking, reading, writing, listening, review, grammar, etc. so that you can easily find what you’re looking for in under a minute. Then, most of them are low-prep or no-prep. It’s lesson planning made easier, guaranteed.
You can get the book in both digital and print formats. Keep a copy on the bookshelf in your office to use as a handy reference guide. Or, take the e-version with you on your phone or tablet for lesson planning on the go.
Check out the book for yourself over on Amazon, but only if you want a serious dose of ESL awesome in your life:
Have your Say about these Preposition Games ESL
What are your thoughts about these ESL preposition activities and games? Do you have a go-to one that you’d like to share with us. Or, did you try one from this list? What did you think? We’d love to hear from you so please leave a comment below.
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Last update on 2019-07-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API