Teaching prepositions is one of trickier topics to teach when it comes to teaching grammar. It can get confusing, especially for those who are learning English as a second language. Also unlike content words like nouns, verbs and adjectives, prepositions are function words and may or may not carry semantic meaning.
Part of the challenge may also come from the fact that sometimes, because we are so used to using language subconsciously; we struggle in discussing the mechanics of it.
So, what should you do when you are faced with the daunting task of having to teach prepositions? Before designing your methodology, for example, one must remember to tailor to suit the kind of students you have. Take into consideration that students have unique learning styles and teaching is most effective when you go by what their learning preferences.
Here are some steps one can following to know how to teach prepositions:
Start with a simple definition. The golden rule is: keep it simple. Do not get too technical. At the beginning, just make sure that they have a basic grasp of it. Look for a simple and standard definition but make sure the prepositions appear in a contextualized sentence, which means the prepositions are highlighted in the sentences that best convey their meanings.
Enlist metaphors. A metaphor is a means of explaining the unfamiliar in terms of the familiar or the abstract in terms of the concrete. Since it is difficult to connect the concept of prepositions to concrete examples the way we can with nouns and verbs, one can enlist the help of metaphors.
For example, one can label metaphors as the nouns’ and verbs’ ‘helpers’. One can say although nouns and verbs are the central part of a sentence, they often need the help of prepositions to complete the meaning of a sentence. For example, you have the nouns ‘book’ and ‘table’ and the verb ‘put’. Now, these can form a sentence but prepositions can help form the specific sentence you want, whether you want the book ‘on, beside or under’ the table for example.
Use examples. Use as many examples of how prepositions help verbs and nouns (and other parts of speeches). Although it is not possible to give them all the prepositions there are in a language, try to give them a good example base by giving as many varied examples as possible.
Compare and contrast. It would also be a very good means of exposition to compare prepositions with other function words. Note how they are similar and how they are different. Give examples and counterexamples. Show how function words differ for content words and how they are the same in how they need to work together to form a sentence.
Discuss the functions. Go over the different types of prepositions and briefly explain the use of each. Show the use of prepositions by giving them sentences with prepositions and then removing them.
Go with games. Using games to say, spot the preposition in a sentence or something similar helps them approach the technical topic of grammar with more gusto and enthusiasm. Just make sure whatever games you choose to use, they are appropriate for the kind of students you are teaching.
Use them in a sentence. Lastly, test if they fully grasped the concept of preposition by letting them use it in original sentences. It is only when they apply what they have learned in actual sentence construction that you see whether you have successfully sent the message across or not.
How to teach prepositions can be complicated at times, but following the steps above will make the task a little easier.