TPR Activities For Prepositions Of Position
Total Physical Response activities to practise on, under, next to etc with young learners.
Movement is something worth adding to almost every young and very young learner class, but can be difficult when the grammar point is “there is” or “an”. No such problems with “on”, “under”, “on the right” etc as you’d need exactly that language to explain how to play sport, do yoga, get ready for classroom activities, etc.
Chanting and putting
The most basic presentation and practice activity that I use with almost all classes from three to eleven years old is chanting the prepositions that we are practising over and over in the same order while putting one hand in that position. For example, we usually start by chanting “On, in, under, on, in, under, on…” while placing their right hands on the top of their heads, in their mouths and then under their chins. The same can be done with their hands being put “on”, “under”, “next to”, “far from” etc any object they all have, e.g. their desks or books.
The next stage after the chanting above is to tell them where they should place their hands, changing the object each time you speak, e.g. following “(Put your hand) in your mouth” with “(Put your hand) in your desk”. Students respond as quickly as they can, maybe with the quickest getting points. Places that are possible sitting down include “in your socks”, “in your book”, “under your shoe”, “in your ear”, etc. They can also stand up and run to put their hands “under the whiteboard” and “behind the curtains”.
Whole bodies there
If you have enough room, you can also get students to place their whole selves “Under the mat”, “In the storage cupboard” etc. If everyone trying to do that would be too chaotic, you can shout out the instructions and then the two students who should do it, e.g. “Under the pegs. Juanita and Pedro.”
The next stage after placing one body part or their whole selves somewhere is obviously to vary the direct object, i.e. asking them to place different things in those different positions. That could be body parts (“Place your ear on the floor” followed by “Place your big toe in your textbook”), stationery, realia they have been given (“Put the paper cup under your chin”), flashcards, or drawings or shapes they have prepared (“Put the triangle near your stomach”).
Make and put
As the next stage from the last suggestion above, you could also get students to make something and place it where you say as quickly as they can. For example, if you give them Playdoh they can “Make a snowman and put in between your knees”. The same is possible with them making sketches on scrap paper, shapes cut out of paper with scissors, etc.
Rather than putting different objects in different places, students can do actions in those positions, e.g. “Jump on the circular mat” and “Wiggle under the teacher’s desk”. If the students all doing the actions would be too noisy, they can do the actions with their hands representing a person.
Throw it there
Instead of putting themselves or parts of their body in various places in the classroom, students could also try to throw bean bags, paper planes etc into the positions that they are told to such as “(Throw your erasers) on the teacher’s desk” and “(Try and make your screwed up piece of paper land) next to the bookshelves”. If they miss the place they were aiming for but can name the place where it landed, they get another try. The same game can also be played with toy cars rolled across the floor (perhaps with flashcards placed down there to add more possible positions) and/ or with students being blindfolded, with the latter making saying where their throw landed into a listening and guessing game.
Where’s it happening?
Listening for where something happens can also be the whole game. Students close their eyes and listen for where something lands, where the teacher is tapping, etc. Students could also try to identify both the position and action, e.g. “The plastic zebra is jumping on the floor”.
Another kind of challenge for responding to instructions is difficult positions on their bodies and clothes, e.g. “Put your left foot on your right thigh”. You can also use versions of the party game Twister.
Any of the TPR activities above can be made more challenging and fun if they should only follow some of your instructions and ignore the others, e.g. by doing as you say if they hear “Simon says put your hands between your legs” but not if they hear “Put your hands between your legs”.
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic blog.