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 15 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 Preposition Activities: 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.
#7 ESL Preposition Games: Taboo
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.
#11: Strike a Pose
Use this one as a quick warm-up or review activity. Strike a pose at the front of the class and then have students make sentences related to what you’re doing. For example:
Your left arm is on top of your head.
Your right arm is behind your back.
The right leg is on the chair.
You are looking to the left.
An alternative way to do this is to send one student outside the classroom before striking your pose. Then, do your pose and have the remaining students make note of your position.
Bring the student back in the class, and the other students have to describe to them how to position their body so that it matches yours. Try out this fun ESL preposition game for yourself!
#12: My Dream Bedroom (or Living Room, etc.)
This preposition interactive activity is best for adults. After teaching about prepositions, have students think about their bedroom and what they like or don’t like about it. Say that they’ve suddenly come into some money and now have $25,000 USD to remodel. What would it look like?
Have students write at least 6 sentences. For example:
I’d have a TV on the wall in front of my bed.
Next to bed would be a beautiful nightstand.
I’d have lots of artwork on the walls.
Now, here’s the interactive part. Put students into pairs and then have the first person read their description to the second person who has to make a sketch of the dream bedroom. Switch roles and then the activity is complete.
#13 ESL Preposition Games: The Memory Timetable
Show students a simple timetable for a minute or two. It could be a train or bus schedule or something like that. How complicated it is depends mostly on the age of the students. Then, take it off the screen and ask students some questions. It’s usually best to do this in partners. Students have to write their answers in a full sentence.
Here are some example questions/answers:
What time does the train leave from Busan to Seoul? It leaves at 7pm.
What time does it arrive? It arrives at midnight.
#14: Picture Quest ESL Preposition Activity
If your students are old enough to leave your classroom without supervision and are allowed to do so by the administration at your school, then consider using this picture quest activity. The way it works is that it’s like a picture scavenger hunt that students have to complete by taking pictures of all the things on a list.
Normally, I’d use adjectives to describe what students had to take a picture of. For example:
- Something yellow, hot, interesting, delicious, etc.
But in the case of prepositions, you could require that students take pictures of things based on prepositions. For example. Take a picture of something…
- On top of the roof
- Under a bench
- Next to something big
Do you want to try it out with your students? Find out all the details you need to know here:
#15: Hide and Seek Preposition Interactive Game
Hide small objects around your classroom. Then, give hints to the students using prepositions about where they can find them. It’s a fun ESL preposition game for young learners, so try it out today.
Quick hint: it works best for smaller classes of six or fewer, or it can get a little bit chaotic.
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, games, and quizzes:
The best part? These preposition interactive games are fun and your students will love learning English with them!
Did you Like These ESL Activities?
Yes? Thought so. Then you’re going to love this book, available on Amazon: 101 ESL Activities for Kids. There are dozens of top-quality games and activities to help you get through an entire semester in style.
We all know that the key to fun, engaging English classes for kids is a variety of interesting activities. This book will help you do just that.
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 2019-10-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API