Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Teaching English as a Foreign Language: Learning Prepositions in English


Prepositions: A Major Learner EFL Learner Obstacle

If you want to hear English language teachers and learners alike moan in unison, just ask them about teaching, learning or using prepositions in English. Prepositions in English are a major English language teacher and EFL learner obstacle world wide. Why? It’s because of the complexities of use prepositions have in English, not only in idioms and expressions, by in simple, everyday usage forms as well.

Those Pesky Prepositions in English

You know the English language prepositions that drive you to exasperation:




• in or inside of
• on or on top of
• at
• in front of
• next to, beside or near
• in back of or behind
• beneath or under
• over or overhead
• around
• through
• between
• among

Yes, there are tons more prepositions like those of time, etc., but my learners initially cringed when I broached the topic of prepositions during an early-in-the-semester class. So, I’ll start off with a few prepositionss of position to illustrate what I do to help my English as a foreign language learners to cope.

Use Different Methods to Illustrate

Since I know that most of my learners are very visual, I use graphics, pictures, photographs and other types of illustrations as aids in ELT: I’ll even draw extensively on the board to help them visualize a lexical set or concept. But I don’t stop at just verbal and visual explanation and illustration either. I use several methods, if necessary, to help learners to internalize these grammatical structures and concepts. For example, realia often work well. I’ll place an empty desk in the middle of the class room. Then I position some cute little stuffed animals on the floor and in relation to the desk.

“Bunny is in front of the desk.”

“Tiger is on the desk.”

“Piggy is behind the desk.”

“Puppy is under the desk.”

“Winnie the Pooh is next to the desk.”

Learners are encouraged to come up individually to change the positions of the stuffed animal characters. Then they orally repeat what the new positions are.

Using Realia and TPR in Teaching English Prepositions

Another useful technique is to use the learners themselves as “pieces” positioned in different ways in relation to one another. Doris is between Hector and Maria. Hector is next to Doris. Maria is next to Doris. Carmen is in front of Hector. Hector is behing Carmen. Alexander is on top of the desk. The desk is under Alexander. ... and so on. After a few of these, in addition to a bunch of hilarious mistakes and out takes, the learners “get it” without much further ado. Using graphic illustration, written and verbal explanation, realia and TPR by moving actual learners into preposition-illustrative positions, the learners not only have a little fun and laughter, but internalize these prepositions with little difficulty in one EFL class session.

Try it out for yourself and let me know how well it works with your English as a foreign language learners.


Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, prolific writer, author and public speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 100 countries. Get your FREE E-book, "If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at: lynchlarrym@gmail.com Need a blogger or copywriter to promote your school, institution, service or business or an experienced writer and vibrant SEO content for your website, blog or newsletter? Then E-mail me for further information.


3 comments:

Anonymous said...

dear prof,
im a teacher in Malaysia. Im doing a research on how other teachers from other parts of the world carry out their lesson. if u dont mind, can u share some of your experience on how your teach your students?What approaches u use ? what type of students you have and how do u use technology in ur class. Its my pleasure if you can share..thanks

regards
iza

izaib33@hotmail.com

MonicaV said...

A useful post, thanks! Teaching prepositions is always difficult because at first they seem so random, so it's good to have a clear guide like this. I'll recommend it to all my friends who are learning English!

Monica

MonicaV said...

A useful post, thanks! Teaching prepositions is always difficult because at first they seem so random, so it's good to have a clear guide like this. I'll recommend it to all my friends who are learning English!

Monica