ESL preposition games

bunny hiding chocolate easter egg to teach prepositions

Here are some fun ESL preposition games for young learners.  These games come from this story kit, complete with lesson plans, flashcards, and songs for kids learning English.

ESL preposition game 1

Introduce prepositions with objects and the body  

The best way to teach prepositions is by using the body to demonstrate them.  Here are some ideas that appeal to the four main learning styles; seeing the objects or body in a given position, hearing the words repeated, moving the body, and touching.

Introduce four contrasting prepositions by demonstrating them with your body or objects.  For example, for ‘under’ and ‘on,’ you might get underneath a chair and contrast that with sitting on it.  ‘In front’ or ‘behind’ may also be done with a piece of furniture.  Equally, you could demonstrate these prepositions by holding a pen over a chair and then holding it underneath, which is slightly more abstract than using the whole body to get underneath something.  Therefore, it would be better to use a teddy bear or doll rather than a pen.

To teach the prepositions ‘in’ and ‘out,’ use a bag, basket, or any container, even an envelope.  Use a selection of recipients to present those two words to make the activity tangible.  Children may enjoy feeling special if you put things in their pockets or in a sock they are wearing and then take it out again.

ESL preposition game 2

Preposition game with movement

Now that you have introduced the first batch of prepositions proceed with a listening game. First, put children in pairs. Next, name a preposition and have pupils jump into a position that illustrates it. Of course, with very young learners, you will have to demonstrate suitable actions.  Work these out with the children before you play. For example, one child could be static while the other demonstrates the preposition.   For instance, for ‘under,’ one child can be on all fours while the other lies underneath. Alternatively, one child can straddle another. Avoid crushing or squishing; some children may be heavier than others!

If you have limited space, demonstrate in pairs with more contained postures like holding hands underneath or over the other child’s outstretched arms.

‘In front’ or ‘behind’ can be done with one person standing behind the other.

For ‘in’ and ‘out,’ one child could make a circle with their arms. The other child stands in or out of it.  Hoops are fun to jump in and out of.  Alternatively, place a piece of material on the floor or designate a pretend swimming pool. Then, tell pupils to jump in and out of it.

The lesson plan continues with more ESL preposition games, gradually bringing the children along until they know them all by heart and can use them in sentences.

Story and entire lesson plan for prepositions

The Easter bunny is out and about, hiding eggs for children to find. But, unfortunately, he is not sure where to hide them, which is a good excuse to teach twelve prepositions!  

NB: There is no need for it to be Easter to use this story!  Simply don’t read out the word “Easter,” and the story works just as well. Therefore, you may use it to teach prepositions at any time of the year.

This lesson plan is packed with ESL preposition games, so pupils enjoy the lesson and learn them all! Here’s proof! Inge Williams from Inglés Brincando in Brazil says:

“This morning, even the 7-8 year-olds were hopping around like bunnies to the Easter bunny song. A week or so ago, I thought it was going to be impossible to teach them ALL the prepositions from the Easter story, but they know most of them already.”

Prepositions vocabulary flashcards

The lesson plan includes twelve flashcards for prepositions children learn via games.

Across                In                           On           

Behind               In between          Out

Down                 Into                        Under

In front of          Next to                  Up

Plus these flashcards for extra vocabulary in the story: Bunny, bush, egg, flowers, pond, pot, tree

Go to the Special Days Story Kit page to order the complete set of ten stories and check out the songs, too! The Easter bunny song is cute and catchy.

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