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Fun activities for prepositions of time

1. Prepositions of time SNAP Prepare playing cards with the preposition of time replaced with a gap, with at least two different prepositions in the pack and approximately the same number of cards for each preposition- for example, 10 cards with “at” missing, 10 cards with “in” missing, plus maybe 10 cards with “on” missing. […]

1. Prepositions of time SNAP
Prepare playing cards with the preposition of time replaced with a gap, with at least two different prepositions in the pack and approximately the same number of cards for each preposition- for example, 10 cards with “at” missing, 10 cards with “in” missing, plus maybe 10 cards with “on” missing. Give one pack of cards to each group of two or three students. One person should shuffle the pack and deal out the cards face down. Students take their cards but can’t look at them. The first person turns over one card and places it face up on the table so that everyone can see it. The next person does the same thing, placing their card next to the first one. If the two cards need the same preposition, the first person to shout “Snap!” wins all the cards so far and can put them at the bottom of their pack. If they don’t match, those two cards stay on the table and future cards go on top of them to make two packs of cards. The person with most cards at the end of the game wins.

2. Prepositions of time pellmanism (= pairs = memory game)
This can be played with exactly the same cards as SNAP above, but is a slower game. The pack of cards is spread face down across the table and then people take turns turning over cards to try and find pairs that have the same preposition missing. If they match, they keep the cards and score two points. If they need different prepositions, they have to put them back in the same place and it is the next person’s go.

3. Prepositions of time sentence completion
Prepare a worksheet or OHP with between 10 and 20 uncompleted personal sentences that contain prepositions of time, e.g. “I wish my birthday was in __________” or “I wake up at __________, but I don’t get up until __________” (if you want the time clauses to be the missing part) or “I __________ at quarter past seven” or “I love __________ing in winter” (if you want to include the time clauses in the gapped sentences). Students fill in at least half the gaps, then read out just the part they have written so that their partners can try and guess which sentence it comes from.

4. Timetables battleships
This is based on the schoolboy game “Battleships”, in which you try to guess where your partner’s ships of different sizes are on their grid and therefore bomb and sink them. Give students school timetables with the days and times written in but all the names of the lessons blank. Tell them to add English lessons in blocks of different lengths without their partner seeing where they have put them (I usually get them to put English lessons in as a block of three in a line at the same time everyday, two in a block as a double English lesson in one day, and one other English lesson on its own). They should then fill the other blanks in with the names of other school subjects. Students then take turns asking “What do you do/ study at _________ on ___________?” in the hope of receiving the answer “English”. If their partner does answer “English”, that is a hit. Any other answer (e.g. “Geography”) is a miss. The first person or team to find all their opponent’s English lessons wins the game.

5. Timetables spot the differences pairwork
This is one of several simpler to explain and play games that can also be played with timetables. Prepare a complete school timetable, e.g. as a Word grid with a subject name in each box, days along the top and times along the left hand side. Then prepare a Student B version of the same timetable by changing the names of between three and five of the subjects. Students then work in pairs to try and find differences between their timetables without showing them to each other, e.g. by asking each other “What do you do/ study at (half past three) on (Monday)?”

6. Timetables find your partner
This can be prepared in a similar way to Timetables Spot the Differences Pairwork above, but you need to prepare lots of different versions so that there are only two examples of each timetable in the whole class or group. Students are given one of the timetables that someone else has a copy of, and go around the class (= mingle) asking questions until they are sure they have found the person who has a matching version.

7. Timetables running dictation
Put one or several timetables on a distant wall (if they are small enough that they can’t be read from the other side of the classroom) or in a different classroom or corridor, and give half the class versions with gaps. Their partner has to run to the completed version of the timetable on the wall, remember the missing information, and relay that back to their partner so that they can complete the timetable. To add more communication, make sure that the person who has the timetable doesn’t show it to the person who is running back and forth.

8. Don’t reach that time
Set a date and time that students should approach by progressing through time, but mustn’t reach or go over. E.g. if you set the time as “Don’t reach 5 p.m. on the 7th of May. Start at 8 a.m. on the 1st” they can say “I played tennis at 8 a.m. on the 6th of May” “I did taekwondo at half past four in the afternoon on the 7th of May” etc, but are out of the game if they say “I went swimming at 6 p.m. on the 8th of May”. Anyone who goes backwards in time or goes up to or beyond the time limit you have set loses, and then the game starts again. You need to make them use a verb each time they speak in order to make sure that they also use prepositions of time. This can be the same verb every time, verbs of one particular type (such as the verbs used with sports in these examples), and future or past tenses.

9. Songs and videos gapfills
Many pop songs include prepositions of time and so can be used for a gapfill to test this grammar point. You can take out either the prepositions or the times after the prepositions, and students can try and guess them before they listen to the song. Alternatively, you can give sentence stems as comprehension questions and students can do the task just as with a normal listening (assuming the song is easy enough to understand without seeing the lyrics). Any of these tasks can also be used with extracts from videos.

10. Board race
Teams of students are given a preposition of time and race to write as many correct time clauses as they can with that time clause in three minutes. Alternatively, give them a time and get them to write times within that period, each with a preposition of time- e.g. for “Monday” they can write “on Monday morning”, “at 7 o’clock on Monday” etc.

11. Answer me!
Students are given cards that have a preposition plus time on them, e.g. “On Monday” and “At a quarter past nine”. They have to ask their partner(s) questions that really get those answers in order to be able to discard those cards, e.g. “When do you least enjoy work?” or “When do you drink your first cup of coffee every morning?” The person with no cards or least cards when the game is stopped wins.

12. Find Someone Who – real times and dates
Students write true sentences about themselves on slips of paper, using time clauses in each sentence. The teacher takes these in, shuffles them up, and deals them out to the class (making sure that no one gets their own slip of paper back). Each person goes around the class asking questions to try and find the person who wrote the slip of paper that they have been given, e.g. “What time do you usually get up on Sundays?”

13. Line up by time
Ask students to line up in some kind of time order as quickly as possible, e.g. by the time and date they were born, the position of their birthday in the year, or the time they got up this morning. It is also possible to play this as a team game by splitting the class in two and giving points to the first class to line up correctly. You’ll need to make sure they use whole sentences in their questions and answers (even though it is a bit unnatural), and be very strict about avoiding L1.

14. Prepositions Stations
Students have to run and touch the right or left wall depending on which preposition should be used in the sentence the teacher says or shows, e.g. the right wall if the teacher says “I get up _______ 7 o’clock” and left wall if they say “I went to the zoo ___________ Sunday”. Instead of running and touching, students can jump either side of a line (staying on it if neither of the two prepositions is correct), throw sticky balls or paper aeroplanes at two different sides of the board, or just point at or pretend to shoot the right preposition on the board or wall.

15. Liar
Students ask each other questions with “When…?” to which their partners must answer with the preposition plus time clause cards they have been given by the teacher, e.g. placing down the card “On 29th December” for “When did you last see your father?”. The other students then guess if that answer is a lie or not- accusing them by saying “Liar” or staying silent if they think it could be true. If it is a lie, the person who lied has to take all the cards that are on the table. If someone says “Liar” but it is actually true, the person who made the accusation has to take the cards that are on the table. If no one makes an accusation, the cards stay on the table for the next round. The person with no cards or the least cards at the end of the game is the winner.

Written by Alex Case for TEFL.net
May 2009 | Filed under Activities, Grammar
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic.

7 Comments on “Fun activities for prepositions of time”

  1. Olga Eugenia Torres Says:

    Good ideas but I would like you to provide examples
    thanks a lot

  2. Alex Case Says:

    Hi Olga

    Good point. Some worksheets with Prepositions of Time games (although mixed in with other kinds of prepositions) and links to other ideas here:


  3. hope Says:

    great work thanks

  4. chickenlips Says:

    Thanks! This is useful. So often I look for kids games and can only find “What time is it Mr. Wolf”, but my students are too old for that.

  5. More Grammar Games articles and worksheets | TEFLtastic blog Says:

    […] Fun activities for Prepositions of Time article […]

  6. Francesca Vanegas Says:

    This page has a grammar mistake which, as an ESL TEFL site I would imagine you’d want to be informed. In exercise #3 prepositions of time sentence completion
    it says e.g. “I wish my birthday was…

    The correct form should be I wish my birthday WERE not was.

  7. Editor Says:

    @Francesca Vanegas: That’s the difference between real English as real people in England and elsewhere speak it and English as it is taught in text books. Yes, WERE is technically correct. In real life almost nobody actually speaks like that. WERE is certainly appropriate in formal and written contexts though.

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