Preposition lesson plans can be engaging and meaningful to students, and they can include more than preposition worksheets.
I enjoy teaching prepositions. When I cover prepositions, I provide a variety of tools for students so they can use prepositions and their punctuation correctly. I’m sure that prepositions are normally part of middle school grammar, but I find that I need to review prepositions with older students, especially when we cover commas.
First, if you’re looking for ideas for how to teach prepositions, welcome! Preposition worksheets can help students understand this part of speech, but I find prepositions lend themselves to interactive activities, especially with pictures for teaching prepositions. In this post, I hope to provide preposition activities that will work in a physical classroom or online.
Second, with any lesson on prepositions, I start with a definition: prepositions link words and show relationships between words. They are followed by a noun or pronoun to create prepositional phrases. Because I work with older students, I find it easiest to teach prepositional phrases as we cover prepositions. Rarely have my students not learned about prepositions before they are in my class.
Third, in this outline of how to teach prepositions, I talk about prepositions and prepositional phrases interchangeably. If you have younger students or students who have not learned prepositions, you might need to adjust my plans. Overall, my lesson on prepositions include a prepositional phrases lesson plan. You might need to adapt a preposition activity or two and your approach with teaching prepositions won’t included phrases.
Finally, I’ve worked with students with varying degrees of grammatical understanding. My preposition activities reflect that experience. Some of these concepts will work perfectly for your learners. Others, you might use another year. I’m presenting all sorts of ways for teaching prepositions below.
Activate prior knowledge
Before a lesson on prepositions, I activate prior knowledge with a quick preposition activity. I use a box to create a visual for students with teaching prepositions: we cover a box with prepositions to practice locations. (You can download the pieces in my membership library. The sign-up form is at the bottom of this post.) The first day, I define prepositions and show students the list of prepositions in the presentation.
The box (or another object) as well as the pieces are prepped before class. Cut apart prepositions and grab some tape. If you prefer not to print out the prepositions, write one preposition on one sticky note. Students can then grab a sticky note or two to adhere to the preposition box.
After students realize they are already familiar with prepositions, ask them to stick/tape the preposition pieces onto the object. Many pieces will make sense (“under” underneath the box), but not all of the pieces will work that way. I stick those on the board and ask students to write prepositional phrases with them. (Of cake, from our house.)
As an alternative, I have provided five smaller boxes and had groups put the prepositions on the boxes. Then, we have several pieces and more students get to participate. I once had a teacher at a conference tell me that she bought decorative bird houses, and her students cover them with prepositional phrases. What a unique idea! You can make the preposition activity your own as well.
We close the first day by discussing all of the prepositions and how they show location or relationship.
The preposition boxes often become part of our classroom decor. Students add funny prepositional phrases throughout the school year, and we have a fun piece of classroom decor that builds relationships.
Digital preposition activity: Return to a prior assignment, maybe a reading passage; the work doesn’t even need to be grammar-based. Ask students to find prepositions. Students might be shocked to see that prepositions are frequently used words, and even more shocked that they already recognize many of them.
Prepositions are in younger grade standards, and many middle school and high school students only need a quick review with them. When older students work on punctuation and parallelism, they might need a brief review of prepositions.
And? Older kids might not enjoy a preposition box or coloring sheets—which is perfectly fine. In such a situation, I review with preposition worksheets. The worksheets might be a ten minute detour from our more difficult grammar lesson. I know that many people grumble about grammar worksheets, but I have found that a preposition worksheet can be a straightforward review for older students.
Preposition worksheets can end confusion and emphasize important concepts. If your students only need a quick preposition review, don’t feel bad about using a quick worksheet.
Prepositions lend themselves to group work. Aside from creating boxes, I ask students to find “preposition songs” on YouTube. The songs are SUPER goofy, and my older students think they are funny. We play these songs during our preposition lessons or later as review. Eventually, I always end up with some students who sing the songs.
As we transition into literature, I ask students to find prepositions from their reading (you could do prepositional phrases for advanced classes). If students need extra practice, we will complete a worksheet or task cards together.
Since I teach grammar alongside literature, I connect preposition lessons to whatever short story we are reading. Moreover, I also continually review parts of speech that we have previously covered. The continual practice and low-pressure review make students comfortable with grammar. Then as we continue with literature lessons, I will point out prepositional phrases in use. Doing so shows students that grammar is not a separate piece of an ELA class.
Finally, task cards make great group work for a quick preposition review. Post the task cards around the room, and have students rotate and identify prepositions.
Digital preposition activity: Ask students to make a playlist of prepositional songs. You could even as students to compile a list for the class.
Pictures for teaching prepositions ia a great activity! Draw a picture, ask students to draw an image, or show students pictures. Partner students and ask them to give descriptions of the picture: around the barn, in the barn, next to the barn, and on. The presentation that I use has ten pictures, and I divide those pictures across many days of lessons. Pictures for teaching prepositions provide endless conversations and writing opportunities.
Using pictures with prepositional phrases really activates prior knowledge. Students do know prepositions, and they know how to give directions or describe locations of objects. I’ve even allowed students to give me directions using prepositional phrases and walked around according to their prompts. It gets silly!
Middle school grammar (and high school!) should engage students, and pictures create the best sentences. When my students and I write sentences from pictures and incorporate prepositional phrases, we naturally transition into writing or literature lessons. Look:
- You can naturally discuss introductory prepositional phrases in student writing and confirm they have commas.
- You can find prepositions and prepositional phrases in your literature studies. (Informational texts and speeches work too.)
- Ask evaluative questions: are too many prepositional phrases used? What is the effect?
Remember, the more you connect grammar to other portions of class, the more your students will become comfortable with grammar lessons. Providing pictures for teaching prepositions is an easy way to connect grammar to writing.
Digital preposition activities: Ask students to find a fun picture. They can use the general web, a picture of their own, or a royalty-free website like Pixabay. Students can then insert the image into a Google Slides presentation. Finally, ask students to insert shapes or text boxes and type prepositions or prepositional phrases in the proper location on the picture.
Creating prepositional pictures would be a fun collaborative experience. You can assemble the pictures together and use them in future lessons. Additionally, those finished preposition activities become wonderful review material.
Part of teaching language with older students is addressing the nuances and changes in grammar. A quick preposition activity is to talk about prepositions in everyday language. For instance, an antiquated rule is that writers should never end a sentence in a preposition, but most modern rules dictate that writers should avoid an awkward construction. Students think the discussion concerning a change in rules is interesting, and they often take sides.
Another analytical piece is deciding how a word is used, as many words (such as “after” or “for”) can be a preposition, adverb, or conjunction. Students must apply rules and analyze each instance to decide how a word is used. Having natural conversations about language is a great way to avoid preposition worksheets.
Digital preposition activity: Ask students to evaluate this article about ending a sentence in a preposition. After all, an advanced standard is for students to understand and recognize how our language advances and changes. That article is the perfect starting point.
Finally, present your lesson on prepositions as engaging, because I’m sure it is! My preposition lesson plans contain a variety of activities including task cars and a picture presentation to use throughout your preposition activities. No matter what preposition activities you choose, be sure to connect grammar to writing and to activate prior knowledge. Soon, you’ll be sharing with other teachers how to teach prepositions.
Check out my free library! Not only will you get a free preposition activity, but you will also get a dozen grammar activities, for free:
Join the conversation! My Facebook group, Grammar Gurus, talks about preposition activities, teaching prepositions, and a prepositional phrases lesson plan.