Recognising prepositional phrases can make the difference between success and failure in understanding total sentence structure. A prepositional phrase is made up of a preposition, its object and any descriptive words in between. It shows the relationship between two things. Prepositions should be taught before any other part of speech, according to "Easy Grammar" author, Wanda C. Phillips. Plan plenty of practice activities to help middle-school students comprehend prepositional phrases.
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Learning the Prepositions
Students won't understand prepositional phrases until they can identify prepositions. Some teachers require memorisation. Others believe familiarity is sufficient. Expose students to prepositions on a regular basis. Play preposition bingo. Create preposition word searches. Students will recognise the prepositions, if they hear them often.
Rebecca St. Martin's seventh grade students -- K.P. Weseloh's Class of 1991 -- generated a preposition mnemonic to the tune of "Yankee Doodle Dandy." You can find it on her website. Play their song for your class. Place students in groups and challenge them to create their own preposition songs. They can make up raps or use familiar melodies such as children's songs.
Prepositional Phrase Demonstration
Show the relationship of a preposition to its object. Place a bean bag on a chair and ask students to create a prepositional phrase that reflects the scene: "on the chair." Continue the procedure, placing the bean bag in other positions, such as under or near the chair. Request volunteers to demonstrate other prepositional phrases with the bean bag.
Divide students into groups. Hide approximately 25 chips around the classroom. Students find as many chips as possible in five minutes. Provide large sheets of paper and a marker for each group. Students use prepositional phrases to write where they found the chips: ie., "near the bookcase." Each group presents its findings to the class.
Prepositional Phrase Book
Read a picture book, such as "Berenstain Bears in the Night," that uses lots of prepositional phrases. Have students brainstorm with peers to construct their own books of prepositional phrases. Bind the books and store them in the classroom as references.
Cross Out Phrases
Distribute prepositional phrase worksheets to students, such as those in "Easy Grammar." Instruct students to place lines through the prepositional phrases. They should draw arrows to the words the prepositional phrases describe.
Write the Groucho Marx quote on the board: "One morning I shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How he got into my pyjamas I'll never know." Use the quote as a springboard for discussing misplaced prepositional phrases. Write several sentences with misplaced phrases on the board. Students work with partners to rewrite the sentences correctly.
Prepositional phrases are difficult for ESL (English as a Second Language) students. Use visual reinforcement, such as the pictorial flashcards found on the MES-English website. Arrows depict direction in relationship to objects.
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