Practice and Persistence With Prepositions

I’ve certainly given thought to the manner in which we teach prepositions more than once. Like all teachers, I hear students’ complaints and requests for help regarding this tricky topic.  How can we best teach prepositions and what forms of practice do students benefit from most?

It’s possible to identify general purposes and teach prepositions of location and direction. However, in a previous post I suggested viewing prepositions from the persepctive of vocabulary and not grammar, meaning we shouldn’t teach a string of prepositions, but instead we should present a set of key words and highlight the ones requiring prepositions.

More recently, I’ve modified that approach by limiting the set of key words to ones that follow the same grammatical patterns. The focus is on both grammar and vocabulary, i.e., structure and meaning. For example, in my video about the Tooth Fairy, I present and practice two short sets of adjective + preposition combinations, such as guilty of and intent on.  Also, in a recent post I suggested an activity for 10 verb + preposition combinations, which include beg for and confess to. I’ve found that students are responding positively to this approach, and so I’d like to offer one more activity: What a Story is Composed Of (see below).  This one is for stative passive verbs + prepositions. I’ve selected my choices from a list Betty Azar and Stacy Hagen compiled in the fourth edition of Understanding and Using English Grammar (Unit E: Preposition Combinations, p.449).

“What a Story Is Composed Of”

Step 1 – Copy Stative passsive verb and prepositions_handout for the students. Look at the model text “The Taste of Success” and have students identify examples of stative passive verb + preposition combinations. Answers: is known for, is crowded with, dedicated to.

Step 2 – Assign story themes to pairs or small groups of students. Have them create short stories similar in length to the model. They must use the three combinations listed. Other combinations can be added but are not required. Encourage authors to title their stories. 

Step 3 – Allow students to read their stories to the class. VARIATION: Make the stories a fill-in-the-blank exercise that the class can complete as they listen to the text. Before reading, the authors should remind the class what the answer choices are. The verb + preposition combinations can be listed on the board.


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