Since my lesson plan on giving directions is so popular I thought I would write up another activity I do for teaching how to talk about where things are located. My giving directions lesson plan is focused more on practice. This lesson is more about teaching and controlled practice, so you might do this one first. It focuses on basic prepositions of location such as “next to”, “in front of”, “behind”, “near”, as well as “on”, “in”, and “at”
One of the great things about lessons on directions and how to go somewhere is that it provides a great chance for authentic conversation. You can always ask students about where they go shopping, where they got those fabulous shoes, what cafes they recommend. If you are teaching in an EFL setting, this is great for building student confidence because the students get to teach the teacher.
- Teach prepositions of location: on+street, at+corner, opposite, near, next to, behind, in front of
- Give students controlled practice in describing where places are in their city
Warm Up: Test Before You Teach
Because of the great potential for real conversation, I like to start this lesson by asking students where something is. This is a great way to test before you teach and see the level of the students and also it shows students how this lesson will be applied.
I like to start off by picking a stronger student and asking, “Hey, I need to get a new print cartridge for my printer (or new shoes or fresh veggies or whatever). Where do I go to get one cheap?” Let him or her answer, usually with the name of a store. Ask, “Where is that?” Whatever answer they give, play dumb (if necessary). If they give a street address, ask “Where’s that?” If they tell you it’s near the movie theater, ask where the movie theater is. Get as much language out of them as you can and open the conversation to the whole class. At the same time, note any common mistakes they make. Since the focus of this is prepositions, focus on those. Personally I advise you not to correct them at this stage because this is a warm-up exercise and it’s more interesting to see what they can do, than start teaching them now.
Once you get a strong idea of where the printer cartridge store is, write the name of the store on the board and under it on separate lines the prepositions: on, near, next to, at, opposite, in front of, behind.
Note: Based on the warm-up you may or may not need to demonstrate what these prepositions mean. On + street name you can probably slip by them and because it’s idiomatic, the best way to have them understand it is give them input and repetition. Also note that for British English you may want to use in+street instead of on+street.
To demonstrate the meanings of these words, start with real life objects in the classroom. And then bring it to the context of places in town.
For example, to teach “next to”, I would put a book next to a pen and say, “The book is next to the pen.” Move them together and apart a short distance and repeat, “next to”. Then you might pick two students and say, “Anna is next to Inna.”
Now ask short-answer questions like, “Who is Ivan next to?”, “Sarah, who are you sitting next to?” Once they’ve got it, ask, “What is the school next to?”,”What is your house next to?”.
You can do the same with “in front of”, “behind”, and “near”.
Whether you demonstrate or not, your board should look like this:
in front of
Ask students, “So what street was Logicom on?” Write the name of the street after on.
Ask what it was near and again write the answer(s) on the board. Then ask what it was next to, what corner it’s at (if appropriate), what is opposite the store, and what it was in front of or behind and write all the answers on the board.
If you feel the students are struggling, ask students to make sentences out of the notes on the board one by one. So student one will say, “Logicom is on Oak Street.” The next might say, “It is at the corner of Main Street”, the next might say, “It is in front of the Italian restaurant.” And so on.
Now erase everything but your prepositions and pick a well-known place in town. Write it on the board and ask students one by one, “What street is it on?”, “What is it next to?” “What is it opposite?” and so on. Do this with different places as long as students need it (and as long as they don’t get bored). Then swap it around.
Pick a well-known place, erase the prepositions and put up descriptions. Let students fill in the prepositions. So for the White House, I would write:
___ the Mall
___ Pennsylvania Avenue
___ the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 15th Street
___ the Department of the Treasury
___ the Ellipse
Let students fill in the right prepositions (near, on, at, next to, in front of in this example). Obviously you need to choose a place the students know well or they will struggle.
The Where is It Puzzle
Now hand out the Blank Map Puzzle. In this worksheet, students are given a blank map and using clues they must fill in the rest of the map. Give them some time to work it out and then go over it as a group, or have students correct each other (Answers are here).
For homework or next class, you can have students do a number of activities.
Describe their home. Have students write a short paragraph using these prepositions to describe where they live.