A few days ago I was teaching my class of eight year-olds spatial prepositions. I decided to keep it fairly simple with in, on and under so they wouldn’t get overloaded. I’d been teaching them vocabulary for objects and furniture from around the school for the past couple of lessons to prepare them for parts of the lesson venturing out of the classroom into the reception area to make it more exciting.
We began by drilling the prepositions and hiding animals (toys, not real ones!) around the classroom, and to elicit “The rat’s in/on/under the table/chair/computer” and took it in turns hiding the toy rat and getting each other to look for it – the winner being the one who correctly said where the rat was. When we went out of the classroom to continue the activity, one of my students from the next class was waiting on the bench ready to come into the class. I asked her if she wanted to join in, but she politely turned down the offer and waited patiently until the the next lesson started. Nevertheless, come the end of her lesson, she was asking eagerly if they could play the same game. I thought it was a great a great opportunity to ue English and have a good time simultaneously (is there any other way?) and quickly set up the activity.
First of all, it’s important for the students to be familiar with the aspects of language which we’ll be using – in our case prepositions and objects around the school. Since they were higher level students, I included a greater number of prepositions (in, on, under, in front of, behind, next to and between) and quickly revised them by getting them to match the written form of the preposition with a picture). Next, I quickly revised the the furniture around the school with them (again by matching words to pictures) before we were finally ready to go.
Of course, it’s important to ensure that each of the students is involved in the activity and has the opportunity to use English, so I decided the winning combination was for groups of three competing against each other (there were six students in the class on this day). One hides the other team’s toy somewhere clever, the second has to go out and locate their team’s toy and tell the third member of the team where it is. The third team member then writes it on the board (for example ‘the pig is under the bench’). The first team to write the sentence correctly (without spelling mistakes!) wins. The members of each team swap roles to ensure that each student hides, speaks and writes.
Why is this activity good?
Kids love to challenge each other and try and catch each other out. By hiding toys for the other team to find they get really engaged. What’s more, they’ll be extremely active, running around and trying to outdo each other, ensuring they’re constantly engaged.
Additionally, they have to practice a variety of different skills to win. Speaking is necessary to tell each other where the toy is hidden, listening is required to understand where it is and, of course, writing is necessary to complete the task. If any of these stages doesn’t work, then the other team will win (something absolutely unforgivable as far as kids are concerned!) If they use any language other than English, they automatically lose. It may sound harsh, but it’s amazing how quick they learn to do it.
Setting it up
The key is of course in correct activity set up, which is in the following stages.
1. Revise the vocabulary for the objects in the environment the toys’ll be hidden around – if the kids can’t say where the toys are, they can’t complete the activity.
2. Revise the prepositions – again, if the kids can’t say where the toys are, they can’t complete the activity.
3. The teacher demonstrates the activity in the classroom first so the students can reproduce it themselves.
-Teacher says to students ‘close your eyes’ and hides toy.
-When ready, teacher says ‘open your eyes. Where’s the toy’?
-The first student to answer with a complete sentence wins and becomes teacher.
-Repeat as many times as necessary until the students can use the language automatically.
4. Group the students into teams and give them 10 seconds to choose a team name (the name personalises the activity and gets them more involved).
5. Demonstrate the activity once again outside the classroom by writing on the board.
6. Set the students up in their positions and away they go!