Prepositions are essential words for describing where things are. Unfortunately, in English we use the same words not only to describe different sorts of places but also to make up little phrases with a verb and these tend to make the preposition word mean something different again!
For example, you can look over a house if you have a very long ladder and want to see into the back garden; or you can look over a house if you intend to rent or buy it. In this case there is no real element of ‘above’ or ‘over’!
We use ‘on’ to describe the position of one thing on top of another, but we also hang pictures on the wall and they are vertical!
Young children tend to use the prepositions ‘on’ and ‘in’ first. However they are fairly logical and use ‘on’ for things with flat surfaces, and ‘in’ for things which have a container shape. So if you ask them to a pencil on a cup they will probably put it in because that is far more sensible.
The preposition words in/on/under tend to be the first to be acquired and used reasonably. Words like around/beside/in-between/through are usually developed later on.
There are problems with ‘in front (of)’ and ‘behind’ too. This is discussed in the guide to the resource Prepositions: Talk & Read about Pictures. There are difficulties with things with a front and back, things like a queue, and pictures. In real life it also depends on your own position in relation to the objects!
SVA + SYMBOLS prepositions 1 Four examples for each preposition aimed at eliciting 4-word sentences.
PREPOSITIONS USING TWO SPOT BOOKS prepositions 2 The two Spot books are well-known. The resource can be used for eliciting animal names and for asking/answering What and Where questions.
PREPOSITIONS – TALK AND READ ABOUT PICTURES prepositions 3 These two similar resources are intended for barrier game activities and the pictures need accurate descriptions including a preposition word. Illustrated with Widgit symbols. Good for receptive and expressive language. Text captions can also be used as a reading-for-meaning task with readers.
Verb+Preposition DOMINOS prepositions 4 Two sets of dominos with verbs that occur with different prepositions as phrasal verbs. These are hard to get sorted out (cf a car pulling out and a dentist pulling out a tooth). English has many of these verb+preposition phrases, some of which have several meanings and can be idiomatic. (It has not been possible to include all examples here but you can make students aware of them at an appropriate level.) These expressions cause great problems for the ASD group and others with language difficulties and need lots of repetition. Could be useful for EAL too.