Today, I had my 8th grade student (Mexican-American descent) mess about with table settings to learn about prepositional phrases. I placed on the table a plastic spoon, fork, and knife, along with a cup, napkin, and plate. I then placed a key with common prepositions. I presented the problem as a “real-life” event, recalling the necessity of setting a table for a dinner party. In make-believe, Charlie needed to set the table making sure everything was in its right place.
I first asked my student to simply use the materials before him to set the table. He put all of the silverware on the same side of the plate. I then had him look at Charlie’s prepositions list, and I asked him to verify for Charlie if particular items were “next to,” “on top of,” “under,” “between,” or “in front of.” We messed about with this until he asked me if prepositions needed objects. Eureka!
I told him if he could answer the question “What” after the preposition, then the word is functioning as a preposition (i.e. — The knife is between the fork and spoon (his setup)… The knife is between what?)
I kept engaging his interest in the materials with questions involving prepositions until I recognized we were finished. This lesson happened during lunch. It felt casual.
Still, the learner’s discovery that prepositions must contain objects (In the grammar world, we called them the Object of the Preposition), does not cause him to automatically distinguish between prepositions and adverbs. However, this “messing about with table settings” is a beginning and I am wondering how I may now include similar word from the “Prepositions List” that are used as adverbs.
I will continue to chase.