Where are you? Prepositions of place

Although this is a grammar point and you’d be advised to limit grammar input for primary learners, you can present the prepositions as units of vocabulary.

Jo Bertrand

Children respond better to chunks of vocabulary that they can immediately use as opposed to lengthy grammatical explanations.


  • To introduce prepositions of place – in, on, under, in front of, behind, above, below
  • Using physical actions to demonstrate language and bring it to life


  • A teddy
  • Photocopies of shapes and faces
  • Own large set of shapes and face
  • Pre-drawn simple maps (one on a transparency)
  • Large space for obstacle course - see further suggestions

Hide the teddy

  • One person goes outside the classroom while everyone else decides where to hide the teddy. Once the teddy has been safely hidden the child can come back into the classroom.
  • By asking questions they have to locate the teddy. The question structure you should practise with them first is: 'Is the teddy on the floor?' 'Is the teddy in a bag?'
  • Practise enough with you demonstrating and the whole class repeating the question so that when individuals have to do it they won’t feel nervous. The really young learners can go out in pairs.

Shape dictation
Prepare a handout for each child with three large, simple shapes to be cut out - a smiley face, a cube and a cylinder. Prepare a set of shapes for yourself.

  • They cut out the shapes and colour them in.
  • On the board stick your cube and cylinder, then place your smiley face somewhere in relation to them but cover it up so the class can’t see.
  • Tell them where you have put the face and they must do the same with their own shapes.
  • Uncover your shapes so that they can compare with their own to see if they have correctly placed their face.
  • They can then do this in pairs or groups to go from recognising prepositions of place to producing them themselves. They have to say, e.g., 'The face is next to the cube.'

Simon Says
A great classic to practise recognising prepositions of place with sentences such as Simon says; ‘Put your hands on your head.' Simon says; ‘Put your feet under your table.

  • Be sure to use ‘Simon says’ when practising the harder prepositions so you can be sure they have understood and can reproduce the action. If Simon doesn’t ‘say’ to do something you can’t be sure they have understood!

Place the pen

  • The class is split into two or more teams. Each team has a chair.
  • Shout out the name of an object they can easily find in the room and a preposition of place e.g. 'Put a book on the chair.'
  • The designated team player must run and place the classroom object on, under, next to, behind… the chair depending on what you shouted out.
  • If possible place two chairs at opposite ends of the classroom so that they can’t copy each other and can then compare afterwards.

Ways to demonstrate prepositions of place

  • Use yourself and a small chair as a model. You stand next to it, put it on your head, stand behind it etc.
  • Use two children as models for behind, next to… and three for ‘between’.
  • Draw the box and smiley face below to show the relationship between two objects.

Further suggestions
If you want to later move on to prepositions of movement – (over, around, through) you could use the following activities.

Obstacle course

  • If you have access to a large room or a safe area outside you can construct a mini obstacle course.
  • Put the class into pairs and blindfold one of them. The other has to vocally guide their partner around the obstacle course.
  • Make sure the course is safe and that the children are not left alone with their blindfolds on.

Map directions

  • Distribute a picture with easily recognizable landmarks such as a pond, river, bridge and tunnel.
  • Show everyone on your copy where they should start with their pencils and then talk them through a simple journey. They should follow with their pencil. Have the journey clearly marked on a transparency that you can display afterwards so that they can check their own copy. This can also be done in pairs or small groups on a new map or rub off the pencil and start again.
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