Introduce Positional Words
Positional words are quite an abstract topic for children to learn. Try some interactive activities to teach children these terms. If children can relate their own bodies to their environment, they will be more likely to understand and learn these prepositions.
Use something large and attention-grabbing to illustrate the meanings of different prepositions. For example, use a stuffed animal and a box. Move the animal around the box, naming its position each time you do it. Put the animal next to the box and say, “The animal is next to the box.” Place it inside the box and say, “The animal is inside the box.”
Next, ask children to place the animal in relation to the box, according to your directions. “Please place the animal on the box.” The child should place the animal on the box.
Take pictures of the animal in different positions in relation to the box. Create a matching activity, where children match two sets of these pictures. Turn the pictures into flash cards, by adding the positional word to the bottom. Make three-part matching cards for even more written vocabulary practice. Another type of matching would be one set of pictures cards to one set of word cards.
You can also make word strips with simple illustrations of prepositional concepts. Find pre-made ones on ABC Teach, or create your own.
Following Directions with Positional Words
Children can use these cards in small groups to practice their positional words. One child can be in charge of holding up a picture card for the others to describe, or to recreate with their own materials.
Pass out the picture cards to a small group and have one child describe or read a description of the position. Again, the children can manipulate their own materials to follow those directions. To make it more entertaining and kinesthetic, have the children pretend to be the animal. Or, simply create a bunch of command cards for the kids to follow. "Stand next to the trash can." "Sit on the chair." "Crawl under the desk."
To make this a self-correcting independent activity, write the descriptive sentence on the back of the picture card. The child should read the directions and manipulate the objects. He can then check his work by turning the card over.
Some Montessori companies also sell activities within the "blue series" of words that include directions for placing items together. Sentences may be something like, "Put the infant in the crib." "The dog is under the box." These are also easily made at home, using your own sentences.
Written Follow-Up Work
Children can also practice positional words as they do glyphs. These are when the child reads, or listens to, directions, and must follow them. Kids like these, because they usually include coloring. "Draw a circle. Draw a small rectangle to the right of the circle. Put a star on top of the rectangle." Find many of these on sites like ABC Teach.
The free website Enchanted Learning also has some booklets about positional words that are available for download. Children can practice reading the phrases, then copy them on the given lines. When they are finished, they can color them. Written activities such as these are a great follow-up to other interactive positional words activities.