Prepositions: Vocabulary for Beginning Readers

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Prepositions can be a difficult concept for children to grasp: what they are and how they are used. While children learn the meaning of most words indirectly, through every day uses, about 300 words can be taught through direct instruction every year (Stahl & Fairbanks, 1986). This simple activity is a fun way to assess and teach prepositions.

Teaching Prepositions through Play

Background on Prepositions:

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 directly relates to the second word.

Some examples.

The red word is the preposition. The italicized word is the word it refers to.

  • The cat climbed down the tree.
  • The boat went under the bridge.
  • The boy sat next to his friend.
  • The bird flew over the barn.
  • We are in the house.
  • The children can play after lunch.

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.

Time: before, after, since, during, until, as, etc. These relate to a specific time and central event.

Teaching Prepositions:

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

Start with Location Prepositions as the easiest for children to act out, see the action of, and to understand.

For this activity you will need:

  • 2 clear items (cups or bowls)
  • Any single item you have on hand.

We used an Orca we got from Safari LTD. as my son is currently fascinated with Sea Life from our trip to Sea World.

Placing the Orca in various positions relative to the bowl/s, I simply asked, “Where is the Orca?”

Where he struggled in finding the word, I taught the prepositions through modelling.

Teaching Prepositions through Modelling:

Vocabulary can be taught orally through modelling, particularly when a child is at the pre-reading or early stages of learning to read.

In teaching vocabulary through modelling, there are three steps:

  1. Model positive and negative examples of the new concept.
  2. Test the child on their comprehension using examples of the concept.
  3. Integrate by presenting different examples of the new word, along with examples of other previously taught words.

Teaching Prepositions: Visual Modelling with Figurine

We kept the lesson short and sweet. Repetition is key to building vocabulary, so we will have to visit this activity often!

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