Some Ideas for Teaching Prepositions
One day, early in my teaching career, I saw a beautiful chestnut lying on the sidewalk. I picked it up and put it in my pocket, because it was so shiny, and had such a beautiful color. That afternoon when I was teaching, on a whim, I asked the class what I had in my pocket. There were all kinds of answers, but no one could guess “chestnut.”This began a long relationship between my ESL classes and chestnuts. There is nothing like a chestnut for teaching prepositions.
Originally, I had in mind teaching them the crazy sentence “My name is Tony Chestnut.” I would use this to teach the body parts: toe, knee, chest, and finish with the head – nut. Next class when I started teaching, I asked them where is the chestnut? At that point I realized what a goldmine of information can be taught, just using a simple chestnut. Soon, the whole class knew that the chestnut was in my pocket. Next, the chestnut was in my hand. Then, the chestnut was on my hand. Then, suddenly, the chestnut was on her head!
Then it was on the window sill. Then the chestnut was under the desk.
There is a wealth of prepositional phrases that can be taught. There is behind my back, under her chin, between two books, on the chair at the front of the classroom, on the floor at the back of the classroom, in the drawer. If you use nonsense phrases, like “in my ear,” and things like that, the students will enter into the fun of the activity. It is a good idea to write these phrases on the board as you try different ones. It is best to just try a few new phrases each class, and then review the ones from last time. In this way, the students are not overwhelmed with all the new words.
When the students are fairly competent, here is an activity that we used. (Note: if you haven’t any chestnuts, almost any small object will do. We used coffee beans in Brazil, because there are lots of them in Brazil.)
Divide the class into groups of two or three. Give each group the following instructions and let them practice together:
-Put the chestnut on the desk.
-Put the chestnut under a book.
-Put the chestnut beside your friend.
-Put the chestnut next to your pen.
-Put the chestnut on your head.
-Put the chestnut under your foot.
-Put the chestnut behind your back.
-Put the chestnut between two books.
-Put the chestnut on the desk in front of your friend.
-Put the chestnut on your friend’s shoulder.
-Put the chestnut in your pocket.
-Put the chestnut on your hand.
-Put the chestnut beside the window.
-Put the chestnut on the floor beside your foot.
These activities should be used along with the regular work supplied by the curriculum, and you will find that they add a lot to the teaching of prepositions, and you will find that the students remember the phrases.