Child Learn Prepositions
by Libby Kumin,
isn't just a wonderful photo book, it's also a teaching tool!
You can use this
book to introduce the concepts of direction and location (e.g.,
on and off) to your child. Point to the part of the
photograph that represents the preposition, for example, on,
and say the word. What does on mean? Before your child can
say the word, he or she needs to understand what the word means.
Prepositions involve space, so once your child is familiar with the
words from the book, you want to provide real life experience with
each concept. But how? Through play!
Connecting the Word with the Concept
On the playground or in a gym, your child can experience in,
on, and off using the equipment. You just need to say
the word to draw your child’s attention to the preposition that goes
with what he is experiencing. You can use playground experiences to
practice and reinforce these concepts. Your child can go down
the slide, under the swing, and up the ladder. Start
with the single word and if possible, use a scenario close to the
one in the book (sitting on a large ball or going down a slide).
Signs can also be used to represent the preposition. Use total
communication, i.e., the sign and the word. An additional benefit is
that most of the signs for prepositions, such as through or
between, look very much like the concepts they represent.
Generalizing the Word/Concept
Once your child understands the on and off concepts,
you want to generalize those concepts so that he learns that on
can be used in many different situations. Use a big cardboard box or
laundry basket to practice the various preposition “locations.” Put
your child in the box, on the box, and off the
box. Then, use a smaller box and put a doll or stuffed animal in,
on, or next to the box while you label the action,
i.e., "in box." Work up to asking your child to put the doll in
or next to the box. While you are playing, be sure you vary
the type of boxes and toys to ensure generalization of your child’s
emerging skills. If you always teach prepositions by putting the
same block on
or in the same
shoebox, your child will tend to identify prepositions only with
You want to help your child use the new words in longer phrases.
Children with Down syndrome generally begin using two words together
when they have a 100 word vocabulary (may be speech or sign) at
about age three. The two-word phrases they use are combinations of
the single words your child already knows. Most children with Down
syndrome are using two words together consistently by age five. A
good technique to use to help your child learn to combine words is
“imitation with expansion.” If your child can say the single word
on, you first repeat what your child has said, then expand what
he said by one word. Imitation with expansion helps children learn
how to combine words, and it provides the stimulation right at the
level where they can learn. Three points are important to remember
about imitation with expansion:
- Repeat what your child says.
- Validate that what he says is correct, i.e., demonstrate that you
understand him and that he used a correct word.
- Expand what your child says by one word.
What if he is able to say the word on, but is unlikely to say
it voluntarily? Then give him a model. You say on and then
expand what you said to two words, on ball. Remember, too,
that your child may initiate conversations without using speech. For
instance, he may gaze or point at an object. Whenever possible,
follow your child's lead. You can respond to his initiations by
labeling the object, and then expanding. You may have to present the
imitation with expansion many times before your child begins to use
two-word phrases, but keep at it! Repetition is essential, so
provide many opportunities to practice.
Another technique that you can use to help your child use
prepositions in longer phrases is a pacing board. A pacing board is
a cueing system that reminds your child, through vision and touch,
how many words he is able to use in sequence. The pacing board is a
rectangular piece of paper or tag board with at least two colored
dots, or a square of velvet and a square of sandpaper, or two
colorful dinosaur stickers, or anything else that your child likes.
When you use imitation with expansion, point to the dots on the
pacing board as you say each word. For example, in modeling the
phrase on ball, point to the first dot as you say on
and to the second dot as you say ball.
Use hand-over-hand assistance to help your child get accustomed to
using the pacing board for practice. Hold your hand on top of his
hand and take him through the pointing motion. Using the pacing
board provides multisensory cues--visual and tactile reminders for
your child to use two separate words. Pacing boards are especially
helpful for children with Down syndrome because they make use of
their visual strengths to remind them to include two words.
Once your child is able to use two-word combinations, encourage him
to do so consistently and make a 3-dot pacing board to help him move
on to three-word phrases (e.g., boys on ball). Ask day-care
workers, grandparents, adult friends, family, and even siblings to
encourage your child to expand his phrases. If your child is
reading, put words on top of the dots and use the pacing board with
reading as an additional visual cue. As your child is able to
sequence more words together, make new pacing boards with dots and
words appropriate to your child’s skills. An example of a
progression using the photos in the book might be:
- On ball
- Boys on ball
- Boys sitting on ball
- Boys are sitting on ball
- The boys are sitting on the ball.
Answering Questions with Prepositions
When your child is able to use prepositions in speech, ask, "Where
do you want to go?" and then respond to his answer, whether it be "in
the sandbox" or "down the slide." What if he answers your
question with "sandbox" or "slide," even though you know he knows
the prepositions? Repeat the question, and then give the answer,
emphasizing the preposition by making it louder or more dramatic:
"Where do you want to go? Down the slide.
Enjoy the photos! Enjoy the practice!
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