Teaching Prepositions

The subject of this post is: Teaching Prepositions.

In this post, I will explain the rationale of my approach and present the structure of the unit on Prepositions: Lesson plans and practical examples of activities, texts and exercises to be used when teaching or reviewing the unit.


The Prepositions will be taught in context using appropriate, relevant texts

Unit Structure – Junior High

In Junior High, I would suggest spending about 4-5  lessons on Prepositions.

Lesson 1 

a. Reading Passage introducing the topic:

People often think that details are not important. They sometimes overlook little things and pay attention only to big ones. Actually, our daily life, even our happiness, may depend on very little things. A smile, a warm word, a small gift or a phone call from a friend may turn a cloudy day into a bright, sunny one. The same is true for the English language. We spend hours learning Irregular Verbs and memorizing new words, but we do not pay enough attention to small details like Prepositions. Yet, these little words may completely change the meaning of a sentence.

Let's imagine the following situation. We suddenly get an urgent call from a friend who says: " I have run out of gas." What does he mean? Where is he running and why has he called?

Actually, what he means is that he has no gas left and he probably needs our help to get to the nearest gas station.

There are very few rules as far as Prepositions, Prepositional Phrases and Phrasal Verbs are concerned. Therefore, we have to learn those rules and regarding the Prepositions not included in those rules, there is nothing left but to learn by heart.                                                                                                                                                    

b. Presentation of a text including many examples of Prepositions of Time.

Ben wakes up at six o'clock in the morning, goes to school and comes back home at noon. He does his homework in the afternoon, watches T.V. in the evening, listens to music at night and goes to sleep at midnight.

Ben likes sports. He swims in the summer, jogs in the winter, plays tennis in the autumn and basketball in the spring.

Ben was not born in Israel. He came to Israel in 1995, in the month of July. Actually, he arrived on the 5th of July. I think he landed on a Monday. That is a day he will never forget. He was a tourist. He thought he would be back home in a couple of weeks. He had planned to stay here for a short time, or at the most, until the beginning of the school year. His parents, who expected him back by the end of the month, were greatly surprised when  he called to say he was not coming back. They suggested he should stay during the summer and come back home to the States. He stayed in Israel from the beginning of July until the end of August, went home for a year, graduated from High School and then came to Israel for good. He has been living here since then.


Underline all the Prepositions of Time. Try to formulate rules.

 Grammar Review

Function, structure and position of Prepositions

Lesson 2

Do the same with Prepositions of Place.

e.g., in, at, far from, between, among, above, under, etc.

Lesson 3

Introduce Prepositional Phrases

Explain structure and function. Make up a few lists grouped by the Preposition.

Lesson 4

Phrasal Verbs

 Reading Passage

When the fire broke out, we immediately called up the fire brigade. They turned up a few minutes later and tried to get into our house. They worked for hours and asked the neighbors to keep out of the area. Unfortunately, the fire spread around quickly and soon there was nothing left of the beautiful garden surrounding our home except for the Keep off the grass! sign. A friend of mine, who happened to stop by, offered to put us up for the night, but I turned her offer down. The firemen had almost given up all hope of putting out the fire when the expert, who had been looking for the cause of the fire, finally found out what had started it. The firemen went on with their work for some time and soon there were no flames, but no house, either… 


Look at the Phrasal Verbs in bold. Explain structure and meaning. Divide basic / common Phrasal Verbs into lists grouped by the Verb.

How would I approach the issue in High School?

Assuming this subject has been studied in Junior High, I would review the unit for remedial purposes and reinforcement – 2 lessons.

Lesson 1

 Oral Activity

Ask students to talk about their daily routine. Pay attention to Prepositions.

Language Review

Review Prepositions, Prepositional Phrases and Phrasal Verbs.

Lesson 2

Presentation of a Text including many examples of Prepositions, Prepositional Phrases and Phrasal Verbs

The following is a beautiful text I have found in the Internet  I have simplified and abridged it and I think it can be very useful when reviewing the unit. It presents Prepositions in a very amusing way.

What's UP, Man?

Lovers of the English language might enjoy this and non-natives who experience difficulties learning all the nuances of the English language will have a very legitimate reason for their unsuccessful attempts to master it.  There is a two-letter word that probably has more meanings than any other two-letter word in the English language; that word is "UP."  So, listen UP everyone!

It's easy to understand the word UP, in the sense of toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP?

At a meeting, why does a topic come UP? Why do we speak UP and why are the politicians UP for elections, and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report?

We call UP our friends and we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver, warm UP the leftovers, and clean UP the kitchen.  We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car.

At other times the little word has real special meaning.  People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses.

To be dressed is one thing but to be dressed UP is special.     

We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night.   We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP!

When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP.  When the sun comes out, we say it is clearing UP.  When it doesn't rain for a while, things dry UP.

One could go on and on, but I'll wrap it UP for now because I feel my time is UP and it's high time I shut UP!

See how useful two little letters can be?  If you are UP to it, try to think UP some more phrasal verbs with UP on your own; it will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don't give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more. However, before you make UP your mind that the list is all finished UP, look the word UP UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, the word UP alone, excluding phrasal verbs, may take UP almost 1/4 of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions.


Underline and analyze the different kinds of Prepositions.

Elicit the rules and sum up.

And that's about all for today. Nothing left but to learn, memorize, practice and practice again…

For more explanations, please see:
דקדוק אנגלי לדוברי עברית, עמ' 237 – 248

For exercises, please see:
The New Language Guidebook and Workbook, p 347 – 368

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