Prepositions games for children and ESL students

All the following games and activities for kindergarten, preschool and ESL students have been tried and tested in classrooms by The Magic Crayons, who are experienced teaching professionals currently working in Japan and China.

1. Prepositional Pantomime

Materials: none
Time: 5 minutes
Receptive Language: instructions, in, on, under, by
Productive Language: in, on, under, by
Game Explanation: Have the students sit in a large circle & show them an actual box (the bigger the better). Demonstrate getting IN the box, sitting ON the box, sitting (or lying) UNDER the box, & sitting BY the box. Get rid of the box & pantomime the same actions. Have the students practice with you. Call out a prepositional phrase. Students must race to perform the correct action. Any students who make a mistake are kicked out of the circle. Continue until only you’re left. Congratulate yourself on your sure knowledge of prepositions. Repeat.
Note: If the class is small enough & you have access to enough supplies, there’s no reason why you couldn’t play this game with real boxes.

2. Prepositional Hi Jinx

Time: 6-8 minutes
Receptive Language: instructions, prepositions
Productive Language: prepositions

Game Explanation: Review some simple prepositions. Divide the class into 2 teams, line them up across the classroom from the chairs (one for each team), & give each team a book or a bag. Call out ‘Put the book/bag under the chair!’

The first student on either team to correctly do so, return to his team, & repeat the prepositional phrase scores a point. Continue play until all of the students have had at least one chance. , nibh ante quis quis dolor sed mauris. Erat lectus sem ut lobortis, adipiscing ligula eleifend, sodales fringilla mattis dui nullam. Ac massa aliquet.

3. In / On / Under Riot

Materials: plastic garbage bags
Time: 8-10 minutes
Receptive Language: instructions, in, on, under
Productive Language: in, on, under
Game Explanation: Explain in, on & under to the class. Demonstrate each term with one of the garbage bags. Have the students stand in a circle. Yell ‘On!’ & pass one garbage bag to the student on your left & one to the student on your right. The students must stand on the bag, yell ‘On!’, & pass it to the student next to them as quickly as they can. The garbage bags will eventually meet at one student, who can either be ejected from the game or become the teacher for the next round, handing the bags to the students on either side of her & yelling one of the commands.
Note: This activity can also be done as a team race competition.

4. Hiding In The World

Materials: world map or globe
Time: 8-10 minutes
Receptive Language: instructions, ‘Where am I?’, ‘Yes I am / No, I’m not’, ‘Close / near’, etc
Productive Language: Are you in / on / under / close to / near ____?’
Game Explanation: Spread a world map out on the floor so that all of the students can easily see it. Tell them ‘I am in the world. Where I am?’ The students then try & guess what country or city you’re in by asking you questions (‘Are you in Europe?’ or ‘Are you in Africa?’, ‘Are you in France?’ or ‘Are you in China?’, etc). Advanced students should be encouraged to ask whatever questions they can think of (‘Are you close to water?’ or ‘Are you near Japan?’ etc). You may want to allow them to ask their questions in Japanese at first, as long as you model the correct English translation & have them repeat it to you before you answer. Whichever student correctly identifies where you’re hiding in the world gets to pick a spot to hide in for the next round. Continue until all students have had a chance to hide in the world.

5. In The Box!

Divide class into teams of equal size and line them up. Opposite each team are two boxes and a fluffy toy. Teacher: Put the rabbit between the red box and blue box, etc. Once they gasp the concept make one child the teacher.

6. Table Mayhem

Make teams of equal size with up to 5 students in each. Line all the children up against a wall with a table per team a good distance away from each. Teacher says Under The Table and the children race to fit under the table. Repeat for in front of, behind, on. If you have a large room then also next to and between.

Note: Sitting in a table by children or Teachers is considered rude so explain to the students it is acceptable in this case. Definitely no standing in the table though. Once children understand the concept have one child call out the instructions.

7. Train Game

Materials: flash cards
Time: 5-6 minutes
Receptive Language: instructions, ‘What’s this?’, flashcard vocab
Productive Language: ‘What’s this?’, flashcard vocab
Game Explanation: Select 5 students & give each a flashcard. The 5 students then circulate around the classroom collecting passengers for their trains by asking the other students ‘What’s this?’ If the student so asked answers correctly, she joins the train. The longest train when all of the students have joined a train wins.

8. Repo Man

Materials: flash cards
Time: 8-10 minutes
Receptive Language: instructions, above, below, to the left of, to the right of, flashcard vocab
Productive Language: flashcard vocab
Game Explanation: Students sit together at one end of a card grid. Explain the terms above, below / under, to the left / right of. Call out cards for the students to find, using the above phrases (i.e. ‘Take the card above jump’ or ‘Take the card to the left of race.’
Note: It will probably help if you write the terms on the whiteboard with directional arrows for the students to consult, at least at the beginning of the game.

9. Over / Under Table Races

Materials: flash cards
Time: 6-8 minutes
Receptive Language: instructions, over, under, flashcard vocab
Productive Language: over, under, flashcard vocab
Game Explanation: Two teams. Arrange the cards in a pool across the room from the teams, with a classroom table placed between the cards & the teams. Call out a card (or two). The first student from each team races to take the card, but they must first crawl under the table &, when returning, jump or climb over it. You will have to teach the terms ‘over’ & ‘under’ & will probably have to continually enforce the correct under/over procedure.
Note: At least one student will crack his head on the underside of the table, guaranteed.

Over There !

Materials: flash cards
Time: 5-7 minutes
Receptive Language: instructions, ‘Where is the...?’
Productive Language: ‘Over there!’
Game Explanation: Place flashcards around the room & separate the class into two teams. Ask students ‘Where is the [flashcard]?’ Students must point at the appropriate card & shout ‘Over there!’ The first team to point & shout out the answer correctly scores a point. Extend the game by using various classroom objects (Where is the CD player? Where is the toilet? Where’s Tim sensei?). Keep it fast paced & the kids will dig it.