Over the years, I have worked with hundreds of students using the Phonics First® program. I love the multisensory nature of the program and have found ways to incorporate multisensory techniques into other subject areas, including grammar.
I distinctly remember my sixth grade teacher making us memorize a list of prepositions in alphabetical order. I can still recite the start of the list today: about, above, after, against, among, at… I remember reciting the list over and over again in class, but I never really understood prepositions. When a test question would asked, “Identify the preposition in the following sentence…”, I would start at the beginning of my alphabetical list and recite it to myself until I found the preposition in the sentence.
When faced with the challenge of teaching prepositions to my students, I reflected back on my own learning and decided that there had to be another way…a better way.
To teach prepositions, one must be able to identify and define them. The best way I can think to define a preposition is as a word that defines a relationship to another word in a sentence. That is not very descriptive and students do not seem to really understand that explanation. I began using this sentence with students to help them recognize and test to determine if a word is a preposition:
“A squirrel can be ____________ a tree.”
When using the test sentence, only one word may be used to fill in the blank, and that word cannot end in an -ing (as in “climbing”). Try the following test words: beside, under, near, in, behind, below, over. These words are all prepositions!
To make this multisensory, students can create a tree from construction paper. Colorful leaves can be cut out and prepositions written on them. Students can also make a construction paper squirrel, which I like to tape to a pencil. I like to have my students turn the leaves face-down and then take turns turning the leaves over one at a time. Their pencil-top squirrel can act out the preposition while the student says the test sentence aloud.
I have had great success teaching students about prepositions using this fun and engaging activity.
Tammi Brandon, M.Ed., CDP
Tammi Brandon is a Master Instructor and Education Consultant with Brainspring Educator Academy.