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9 Preposition Activities To Improve ESL Learning

By VIPKid  |  February 14, 2018

A common mistake made by ESL students learning English prepositions is trying to translate them into their native language. Though there can be equivalents in their mother tongue, the use and structure can be completely different. Therefore, it is crucial to focus on how to use prepositions correctly when you teach English to kids.

As an ESL teacher, you can do it with the help of various preposition activities. In this article, we will share with you some exciting preposition games that will help your students master this challenging part of speech.

But before we move to the preposition activities, let’s start with the basics.

In English, there are generally six types of prepositions

  • prepositions of time
  • prepositions of place
  • prepositions of direction
  • prepositions of agent
  • prepositions of instruments and devices
  • prepositional phrases

Actually, the preposition type is a clue that will help you demonstrate the use of prepositions in real life and thus design preposition games for your ESL students. For example, you can use a clock or timetables for prepositions of time and various objects, such as boxes, for prepositions of place.

Bring these ideas to life in ESL prepositions games

Total Physical Response Preposition Activity

preposition games

During this activity, you can ask your student or students to place various objects or move around the classroom by using prepositions. For example, ask them to put a book on a desk, under the desk, inside the desk, if it is possible. There is a more active alternative for younger students, where they can hide under the desk or behind the desk, stand in front of the desk, etc. This is a fun way to teach ESL students to learn prepositions of place and prepositions of direction.

Quest Room

Turn your classroom into a mysterious quest room. Hide small “treasures” in different parts of the classroom and instruct students to find them by using prepositions of place ESL. If you’re teaching ESL online, you can instruct students to point out things behind you on the screen.

“My Dream House” Preposition Activity

Ask your ESL students to describe their ideal home in detail, by using as many prepositions of place as possible. You can give them your dream house description as an example first and use prepositions of place to explain where the furniture and other items are located.

Dice of Time and Action

For this activity, you need to prepare two dice, one for prepositions of time and another one for actions. The students should roll the dice and then come up with a sentence that includes a combination of a time preposition and specific action. For example, “for + study” would result in “I have been studying English for two years.” You can divide the class into groups and have them compete with each other, where the winner should come up with a greater number of grammatically correct sentences.

Calendar Events Preposition Activity

preposition activities

Working in pairs, the students should ask each other questions related to various calendar events, including their personal events. Encourage them to use as many prepositions of time as possible. The questions can be, for example, “What did you do on January 20?” “What are your plans for the weekend?” “At what time did you wake up today?” and so on.

Transport Timetables

Give your students the printed train or flight timetables and encourage them to describe the routes by using prepositions of direction and prepositions of time. This description can be made in the dialogue form, for example: “At what time will the flight to New York leave? – It leaves at 10 o’clock.” “Which platform does the train arrive at? – The train arrives at platform number 10.”

Identify Preposition Activity

Divide the class into two teams. Write two identical sentences on a board and invite one member from each team to underline or cross out the prepositions in a sentence. The team whose member was faster to identify the prepositions gets a point. Accordingly, the winning team should get more points. For more advanced students, you can wipe out the prepositions and suggest that the team members fill in the gaps. The most advanced activity for this ESL preposition activity involves filling in the gaps in short stories.


This fun ESL activity can be combined to include other parts of speech as well. Ask your class to sit in a circle and encourage them to make up a common story, each sentence of which should start with a prepositional phrase. For example, the most common prepositional phrase to start a story is “once upon a time”. You can start the story with this phrase and ask the students to continue it.

Lego Preposition Activity

The students build a tower from Lego bricks of different colors. Then the ESL teacher asks them to describe the location of each Lego brick by using prepositions of place. For example, “the blue brick is above the red brick, between the green bricks, and under the white brick.”

As you can see, ESL preposition games can turn studying prepositions into a fun and exciting activity. Keeping students engaged is one of the hardest tasks after becoming an ESL teacher.

Benefits of using ESL preposition games

Incorporating ESL preposition games into lessons has become a very popular teaching tool. Many ESL teachers find them extremely effective and do not hesitate to plan their lessons around different activities and games.

Here are a few major benefits offered by ESL preposition games:

  • They help bridge the communication gap – One of the biggest problems of teaching English to non-native speakers is the language barrier. The students cannot understand your language and you cannot speak in theirs. And when you try to translate prepositions into their language (using online translators) things can become very complicated as their structure and use can be different. Games, on the other hand, can help you bridge this gap. You can use different ESL preposition games to show them the right usage of prepositions in the English language.
  • They are more interactive and interesting – Games are a lot more interactive. They engage the students and encourage them to participate in the lesson. Therefore, instead of solely focusing on the teacher, the lesson can become more interactive and interesting. This interaction can help you see immediately how well your students are responding to your curriculum and lessons.
  • They can achieve faster results – Games are a great way to teach more in a relatively shorter period of time. Their interactive nature lets the students respond without delay, which can help the teacher gauge the progress immediately. Moreover, games are more memorable because the information delivered through visuals and interactive activities can have more chances of being retained by the students. Therefore, a single game played for 10 minutes has the potential to teach more than a verbal lesson delivered for 45 minutes.  

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