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.
Are you looking specially for activities that are related more to giving directions to find a location like the bank or a person’s house? Then you’ll want to check this article out: Giving Directions ESL Games, Worksheets, Maps and Lesson Plans.
Top 20 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 it!
#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.
#2 Preposition Games: Flashcards
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.
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 65 Pages - 11/12/2019 (Publication Date)
#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. This is a great activity to help your students see what a correct sentence looks like.
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. Try out this great activity for kids that gets them listening to correct sentences and then responding to them. Learning English can be a fun experience!
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 94 Pages - 06/18/2020 (Publication Date)
#6: The Memory Circle Preposition Games
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 from the first student 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 student 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. To help your students use prepositions, consider adapting it.
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? If you can draw from personal experience, it’ll be a great activity.
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.
Try out one of the best preposition games for yourself today!
#14: Picture Quest ESL Preposition Activities ESL
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
#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.
Are you looking for something besides preposition games? Then you’ll definitely want to keep on reading for even more resources.
#16: ESL Preposition Memory Game
I love to use some fun videos from YouTube to spice up my classes a little bit. This is one example of a fun preposition game you can play with your students.
#17: Whiteboard Race, Prepositions for Kids
A fun preposition game for kids is this whiteboard race. Make up a number of teams depending on how much space you have on the board. Then, one person from each team comes up and is given a marker.
Say two words (clock, desk) and the first person to write down a preposition (below) gets a chance to make a sentence (the desk is below the clock). If correct, they get a point for their team. If incorrect, the person to the right of them gets a chance to do the same thing.
Continue playing until everyone has had a chance.
#18: Sentence Building Activities
Time spent on building sentences with our students will never be wasted time! Sentences are the foundation to language learning.
When teaching prepositions, it can be a little bit tricky with regards to word order in sentences and beginners may have a hard time not getting this mixed up. If you want to work on this with your students, have a look at these recommendations:
#19: Running Dictation
Just ask my students and they’ll tell you that running dictation is one of my favourite ESL activities! It covers a range of skills, is student-centred and also lends itself well to just about any vocabulary set or grammar point.
In this case, you’ll want to find a conversation of some kind with lots of prepositions in it. The textbook is often a good source, or you can easily write your own. Then, students have to work in pairs to dictate the dialogue and then put it into the correct order. Find out more about it here:
#20: Telephone Preposition Activity for Kids
I’m sure you’ve played this game when you were a kid. The way it works is that you have to pass down a message along the line. Then, the person at the end compares what they have with the original message. Students love it!
Of course, you’ll want to make some sentences with lots of prepositions in this. Learn more about it:
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:
To help our students use prepositions well, we’ll need to give them lots of practice opportunities and worksheets like these ones are just one way to do that.
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!
Preposition Games FAQs
There are a number of common questions that people have about prepositions games, activities and preposition in general. Here are the answers to some of the most popular ones.
What is a Preposition ESL?
Prepositions for ESL and non-ESL are the same! They are words that show relationships between objects, people and places. Some examples of prepositions include: in, on, at, into, through, during, and many more. They are an important part of the English language and are found in beginner-intermediate ESL textbooks.
Why do we Teach Prepositions?
Prepositions are considered to be a “closed class” part of speech. We teach them because they’re an important part of the English language as they act as markers of the structure of a sentence. Prepositions show relationships between people, objects and locations. Although there are a limited number of them, they are very important and remember that in order to use prepositions well, English learners need lots of practice.
How do you Explain Prepositions in English?
Here’s how you can explain what prepositions are to your students. A preposition is used to link nouns, pronouns, phrases or other words in a sentence. They’re useful fo connecting people, objects, time and locations within a sentence. Prepositions in English are usually very short words and you can most often find them right in front of nouns.
What are the 6 Types of Prepositions?
There are various kinds of prepositions to be aware of. They include the following:
- Prepositions for time (in, on, at)
- Place (in, on, at)
- Directions (through, towards, etc.)
- Agent (by, with, etc.)
- Instruments (by, with the help of, etc.)
- Prepositional phrases (after the meal, etc.)
What are Five Examples of Prepositions?
Here are five examples of the use of prepositions:
- She sat on the couch.
- This is some juice in the fridge.
- The child is hiding under the bed.
- She lost her book at school.
- They drove over the bridge.
How do you Use Prepositions Correctly?
One tip for using prepositions correctly is to avoid them at the end of sentences. This is because they have to be followed by a noun and they also have an object. For example, you’ll want to avoid the following: The counter is where I put my keys on. Instead, you can say: I put my keys on the counter.
Did you Like These ESL Activities?
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Smith, Jennifer Booker (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 133 Pages - 03/31/2016 (Publication Date)
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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 2020-12-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API