Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Modest Preposition

I have borrowed today’s tip from Dave’s ESL Café. One of Dave’s contributors, Gayla Fitzpatrick, wrote,

To work on prepositions with my adult Hispanic classes I bring in
one Ken and two Barbie dolls, a couple of doll-size chairs (if you can find them) and a clear plastic shoe box. They are pleased to identify these American icons. I write the prepositions on the board and place the dolls in appropriate positions, i.e.:

Barbie is in the chair (sitting)

Barbie is on the chair (standing)

Ken is beside Barbie

Barbie and Ken are under the table, and
Ken is between the two Barbies

The clear box is helpful for concepts such as "behind" and "under." I pass the items around the room, asking "Where is Barbie?" and "Where
is Ken?" and they practice sentences with the proper prepositions.
I feared my students would find this childish, but they seem to love it. We have fun with the dolls, for example, "Barbie is on Juan's shoulder," or "Ken is in Esperanza's lap." Tattered clothes and frazzled hair only add to the fun!

Of course, you needn’t only rely on Ken and Barbie. There are also Sponge Bob and Patrick Starfish, Elmo and many others. Creative teachers even use rubber chickens in the classroom. That’s the thing about the rubber chicken: the more you use it, the funnier it gets.

One additional thing: tutor Claire O’Leary advised me that there is a website that encourages you to play a vocabulary game. The site,, is backed by a wealthy individual who contributes for UN food programs in proportion to the number of times you play the game. Originally I doubted it was a real deal, but it checked out with urban legend debunking website It also checks out with Wikipedia. The more you play, the more rice the site’s advertisers donate to UN food programs. Much of the vocabulary (e.g. catamount, pelagic, infundibulate) is too high powered for our learners, but you can really get food donated by playing the game. It’s fun. I could not get my level above 47 for very long. If you miss a word you drop a level and it takes a while to climb back up. Whether you play it in lessons or by yourself, it’s a fun way to do some good. Hope you enjoy it. Thanks, Claire!

Thanks for teaching someone—

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