Friday, February 26, 2016

12 Ideas for Teaching Prepositions in the MFL Classroom

What is the best lesson to teach prepositions in a second language classroom?  The short answer is - there isn't one lesson. I have found the best way to teach prepositions is to introduce one or two at a time, then gradually add new prepositions to the ones students have acquired with a different activity. It's important to focus the students' attention AWAY from the vocabulary of prepositions to using the prepositions as part of a greater purpose.

Below are 12 activities that I've used throughout Spanish 2, rather than teaching a "unit" on prepositions.  Most students at the end of Spanish 1 are already able to use several prepositions of place such as debajo de, a la derecha de and a la izquierda de (under, to the right of, to the left of), so I recycle them throughout the semester and gradually add other prepositions.

1. Students' Photos of Pets. Personalize conversations using prepositions with student's photos of their pets. Ask your students to send you photos of their pets at different locations (on top of the sofa, inside the car, under the bed, etc.) and you will have instant engagement. Who doesn't like looking at adorable animals? If you're ambitious, make a list of the locations of the animals, type it and leave a space for students to match the animal photos on the powerpoint with the statements on their paper.   

Or...have the students use ipads to add captions to photos of dogs (their own or ones they find online) or other animals using prepositions. If you want to be really creative, make it a fun contest and students earn opportunities to vote for their favorite picture from participation points. Winner gets...I'll let that up to you.  :-)

2. Class Story:  The original purpose of this class story was to give the students a lot of examples of the Spanish structure estaba + -ando or estaba + -iendo. The story takes places in a movie theater which allows me to recycle to the left of, to the right of, and I add behind (detrás de) and in front of (delante de).  The plot of the story is that someone goes to the movie theater and the people surrounding that person are distracting and noisy because of what they are doing.  Click HERE for an in-depth description of the story.

3. Plaza Sesame: Arriba, Abajo, Alrededor y a Través. Looking for a fun Brain Break? Let your students watch this video of Grover as he adds rep after rep of arriba, abajo, alrededor, a través, and lejos & cerca.  Make it even more interesting by asking a student to be the mirror image of Grover - if you can find a student with that much energy!

4. Two puppets and a box.  I have several hand puppets, one of which is the lovely "Covadonga" cow puppet (pictured on the right) that I've used in my classroom since my first year of teaching. I place a cardbood box on a tall stool in the front of the classroom. Then I ask for 2 volunteers and they choose a puppet.  I say a sentence using the prepositions that students already know such as "los animales están detrás de la caja" (the animals are behind the box). The 2 students stand on either side of the stool with the box and put their puppet behind the box. I continue calling out places where the two animals are and students place their puppet at the appropriate location in relation to the box. After the first 2 students are placing the animals in the correct place without hesitation, the students choose someone to take their place and the new students repeat what I did previously and then I add more prepositions.

5. Here is another Brain Break with prepositions. I tell students to stand and to move their chair to a location in the room where they have more space on around their chair. I call out a preposition and students must put their body at that place in relation to the chair.  For prepositions such as "debajo de" (under) or "dentro de" the students and I decide ahead of time how we will demonstrate those prepepositions.

6. Hide and Seek. I have a colorful small plastic frog and an even tinier plastic cat the size of my thumbnail. One student is sent to the hall and the remaining students decide where in the room to hide the frog or the cat. The student in the hall enters the room and must ask questions to determine the location of the cat. The student may say, "¿Está el gato a la derecha de Nancy?" The students must respond using a preposition in their answer, i.e. "No. El gató está a la izquierda de Nancy." This continues until the student can tell us where the cat is.

7. Hide and Seek Photos. There are several websites with funny photos of children that failed miserably playing Hide and Seek. Project the photos and ask guiding questions to describe where the children are, i.e. ¿Está el niño debajo de la cama o debajo del perro?"
  a. 33 photos that show just how awesomely bad children are at playing Hide and Seek.  
  b. 20 kids who are totally winning at the game of Hide and Seek
  c. 37 photos that prove little kids suck at hide and seek 

8. Finding Mimo. Where's Waldo doesn't hold a candle to the adorable dog named Mimo. Project the photos in the links below and then let your students find Mimo, and then they can describe where the dog is located in relation to other objects in the photo. Or, ask yes/no and either/or questions in the target language about Mimo's location to scaffold the activity for beginning levels.     
  a.  Bored Panda - Finding Mimo
  b.  Bored Panda - Finding Mimo #2
  c.  Bored Panda - Finding Mimo #3

9. Felt Board App - 9 girls & 9 Cats. I use this when working with the vocabulary words: llevaba un vestido, tenía un gato, era, and estaba, but it also reinforces the prepositions to the left of, to the right off, and behind. An explanation of this activity can be found HERE.

10. Felt Board App - Students read a description and recreate the picture using the Felt Board App.  There are three separate scenes the students needs to recreate, and after each one, they bring their ipad to me to check it for accuracy and sign that I've seen it completed.  The document with the descriptions and photos of the screens is on my googledrive HERE.
11. Cats, Cats, and more Cats. I found a picture on Pinterest with 20+ cats in a room. Follow this link to the pin on Pinterest. I uploaded the photo on my ipad on the Pic Collage app and added names for most of the cats.  See a sneak peak to the right.  In class, I describe the location of one of the cats and the students call out the name of the cat.

12. Vamos a cazar un oso. Take this well-known children's story and add your own actions to get the students up and moving around and to reinforce prepositions such as: por encima no podemos pasar, por abajo no podemos pasar, lo tendremos que atravesar.


  1. That is a good tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere.
    Short but very precise information… Thank you for sharing this one.
    A must read post!

  2. Great Ideas! I just started planning for this topic and you made it a lot easier!