How to Teach Prepositions: Location

I believe it is critical to inject excitement into lessons, stimulating multiple regions in the brain, in direct proportion to the dullness and drabness of the factoids we must teach our students. The incredible challenge in teaching really boring material is that it is also boring to the teacher, and believe me, children pick up on our emotions as we teach! If the subject matter bores us to tears, it will bore the children as well. Prepositions fall easily into this category of most boring content.

So let’s make it fun! Use body movement, color, images, and hands-on activities, and make it such a riot that the children will never ever forget.


What is a Preposition?

What does the word mean? If we break the word into parts, we have PRE and POSITION. A preposition, when used in a sentence, is a word that is positioned before (pre) another word or phrase and relates directly to that second word.

Check out our previous blog, Parts of Speech Simplified, for more teaching ideas!




Some Examples:

The red word is the preposition, and the italicized word is the word the preposition refers to. 

Preposition Sentences


The picture I get in my head when thinking of how prepositions relate to other words is of one word orbiting the other like the moon orbits the earth.



Types of Prepositions

Location: under, over, in, by, between, upon, near, beneath, beside, inside, outside, below, etc.

The word that follows the preposition is the central object as in the sentence, "The runners sprinted across the river."

Types of Prepositions

Time: before, after, since, during, until, later, etc.

These relate to a specific time such as in the sentence, "We will play before lunch." Lunch is the central event, and playing will happen in relation to that event in time. 

Prepositions of Time

Teaching Location Prepositions

Teaching prepositions will be greatly enhanced if you design lessons that allow the children to move, to manipulate objects, or to draw pictures showing what the sentence is saying - preferably all three.

We recommend starting with location prepositions as they are the easiest for children to act out, see the action, and understand. Next week's blog will focus on teaching prepositions of time.

What You Will Need:
  • Large empty box
  • Preposition cards
  • Popsicle sticks and can or jar (optional)
  • Small objects such as toy animals, fruit, cereal, counting cubes, etc.
  • Small containers that each toy will fit into
  • Paper and coloring supplies
  • Construction paper and/or Prepositions: Location Activity Sheets
  • Scissors
  • Glue

I. Act it Out

If you have multiple children, write their names on popsicle sticks and put the sticks into a can or jar. Without looking, choose one name; this will be your first volunteer.

  • Choose one preposition card and read the word. Example: BY
  • Say, "Michael is BY the box." Michael will act out what you are saying; he will go and stand or sit by the box.
  • Choose another name and another card. Example: IN
  • Say, "Maria is IN the box." Maria will respond by climbing into the box.
  • Continue this way until every child has had a turn. 
II. Manipulatives
  • Give each child a small toy and a small container.
  • This time, as you choose a word, say the sentence, and the children will act out the meaning using their manipulatives.
  • Example: You say, "The toy is IN the box." or "The toy is BEHIND the box."


III. Drawing
  • Write the prepositions on your whiteboard or put the cards into a pocket chart so the children can see them.
  • Tell the children that they are going to use one of the words and an object of their choosing to draw a picture. Show them an example: Say, "If you choose UNDER as your word, and a ball as your object, you would draw a simple picture of a ball UNDER something else.
  • Now that you have shown them an example, let the children have time to create their own images. Allow them to show their drawings and tell the group about what they drew. 
Preposition Drawing


III. Art Project
  • Supply the children with construction paper, scissors, and glue. Have them make their own project similar to the one in this illustration. Choose if you want the children to label their sections themselves or if you would like to have a word bank for them to copy as desired.

    The round, red ball with the P on it is the little "moon" that is orbiting the orange box. Sometimes it is under the box, on the box, by it, behind it, and in it. 
how to teach prepositons



Try this engaging multisensory approach to teaching location prepositions, and experience the difference it makes. Adding body movement, color, images, and hands-on activities will propel prepositions from, "This is a bore!" to "We want more!"

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