The Power of Prepositions!

Prepositions are underrated.  Even adverbs, one of the most enigmatic parts of speech, gets more attention than prepositions.

What difference does it make?

Consider this.  Emerging writers often fail to use complete sentences.  Students who can identify prepositions and prepositional phrases are better able to identify the subject and verb of a sentence.  Once this skill is mastered, students’ writing is clearer and more complete.

To understand how to find subjects, students first need to learn about nouns and pronouns.  Once students have a handle on nouns and pronouns, teachers might want to consider moving on to prepositions.  Here’s why.  Many sentences have prepositional phrases.  The nouns and pronouns that end these propositional phrases are called objects of the preposition.  Students often incorrectly mistake the nouns and pronouns in these prepositional phrases as the subject of the sentence.

I love prepositions

Phrases like these can seem like sentences.  Along the slippery trail.  Stuck between two pages.  When the bus arrived.

Even when students seem to have mastered the ability to identify subjects and verbs, sentences with several nouns or pronouns can be confusing.  Check out this sentence:

Down the hill, past the grove of orange trees, Linda turned onto the shady, dirt road by the new school.

Students who have learned to identify prepositions and objects of the preposition are able to eliminate all the prepositional phrases in sentences, even one this long.  Let’s try it.  If we eliminate all the prepositional phrases– down the hill, past the grove, of orange trees, onto the shady, dirt road, and by the new school– that only leaves two words:  Linda and turned.

Down the hill, past the grove of orange trees, Linda turned onto the shady, dirt road by the new school.

Given two words to choose from, most students will be able to identify the noun (Linda) as the subject, and the remaining word (turned) as the verb.

Eliminating large chunks of wording from sentences makes it much easier for students to pick the correct noun or nouns that are acting as the subject, as well as the verb or verbs that make up the complete verb phrase.


After searching for materials that use this approach to teaching grammar and writing,  I discovered there was little to be had.  Below are the resources I’ve discovered, as well as those I’ve created for my own use.

There are many free worksheets at Super Teacher Worksheets.  However, it’s important to review all handouts carefully to avoid sentences that include infinitives such as to be, to go, or to see, that might confuse students just beginning to learn this skill.

There are several free preposition videos available through WatchKnowLearn.   Since most are geared toward a wide age range, you may need to check out two or three before finding one best suited to a specific grade.  Here’s a link to a short preposition SMART Board lesson on SMART Exchange.  And, this link at CafeTechno has some definitions and examples that might help clarify lesson content.

Here’s an 88-slide PowerPoint that introduces prepositions and prepositional phrases, as well as showing how to eliminate them to identify the subject and verb of a sentence.  For a limited time, purchase this product and receive a FREE copy of the companion product, Identifying Subjects & Verbs; Easy Mastery Using Prepositions & Prep. Phrases .

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This engaging PowerPoint is designed to teach students to easily identify the subject and verb of a sentence. The entertaining lesson contains animations, cartoon characters, and humorous dialogue. Students learn about a “trick” for identifying subjects and verbs. The key to the “trick” is learning how to eliminate prepositional phrases from the sentence. Any student with a basic understanding of nouns and verbs will enjoy success with this approach.

Check it out!

This resource contains 43 reproducible pages (plus answer keys) designed to teach students to easily identify the subject and verb of any sentence.  Using these materials students will learn to: identify up to 48 common prepositions, locate and cross out all prepositional phrases in a sentence, and scan the remaining words to identify the subject and verb.

Identifying Subjects & Verbs~ These handouts, printables, and assessments help students eliminate prepositional phrases to easily identify the subject and verb. Includes preposition handouts, step-by-step introduction, practice worksheets, and quick, easy-to-grade assessments.

Identifying Subjects & Verbs~ These handouts, printables, and assessments help students eliminate prepositional phrases to easily identify the subject and verb. Includes preposition handouts, step-by-step introduction, practice worksheets, and quick, easy-to-grade assessments.

Check it out!

If you know of any other free or low-cost resources that use prepositions and prepositional phrases to identify subjects and verbs of sentences, please leave a comment and share!

Zero Budget Resources for Building Your Classroom Library

Few teachers can afford to purchase books for their classroom libraries.  Over the years I’ve found several ways to overcome this issue.  jpg_1681-African-American-Girl-With-Books-In-Their-Hands

1.  At the beginning of the year, create a birthday book club to encourage parents to donate a copy of their child’s favorite book.  Allow the child to inscribe the year and their name on the inside cover.  Before placing the book on the shelf, encourage the student to share what they most like about the book.  Most students love the attention and it will perpetuate more donations.

2.  If your school has book fairs, create a wish list and get it out there before the sale.  Not sure what titles to request?  Ask your librarian for help or check out this list of the Top 100 Children’s Books of All-Time.  Write short thank you notes for each donated book.

3.  Allow students to order books through tried-and-true book clubs such as Scholastic.  Those free points really add up, especially if you wait and use them during slow months when publishers offer special discounts.  After saving points for two years, I once scored 90 free books!jpg_package700

4.  A few organizations will actually send you free books just for asking.  Free class sets of Ayn Rand books are available through  a special program at Ayn Rand Education.  For teachers working with students from low-income families, check out the free book program at First Book

5.  If you have some money to spend, try Half Price Books, or a similar discount, new/used bookstore in your area.  Your dollars will go further and you’ll probably have fun browsing.  One store in Texas offers teachers free books, so it might be worth a phone call to see if there’s a similar program in your area.  Check here to find a store near you.

6.  If you’re in a building where students sometimes bring teachers holiday gifts, do book talks on titles you’ve gotten from students in years prior.  Gently mention that these were among the best holiday gifts any teacher could ever get.jpg_2037-Laptop-Cartoon-Character-Displays-Pile-Of-Books

7.  Are your students reading ebooks?  There are several free resources for a wide range of titles. Search “free books for teachers” to get started, or check out eBooks@adelaide and for an idea of what’s out there.

8.  Check with the librarians at both your school and public libraries.  Ask that they contact you before getting rid of any books.  Each year I comb through the books that have been purged from the library shelves and take any titles that fit my students’ reading levels.  Sometimes the covers are a little out-of-date, but I put a colorful label on the spine and that seems to be enough to attract students’ attention.jpg_FREE01

9.  If you recently started teaching a different grade, you might want to try trading your books for different ones.  Check out Paperback Swap to learn more about this free program.

10.  Finally, put a notice in your school’s newsletter asking for any books that children have “outgrown.”  Those students you had two years ago may be ready to let go of books that are perfect for your current students. One generous parent donated over 10 books that were perfect for my students. If you can establish this “green” approach to “recycling” children’s books, you may not need to do anything else!

Have any other free or low-cost ideas?  Please leave a post and share your favorite!

Check out this low-cost teaching unit for one of my favorite books, Little House in the Big Woods!

Little House in the Big Woods Novel Unit

Books available here!

Embrace Your Inner Warren Buffet

Kids deal with economics every day.  There are four friends, but only three cookies.  Scarcity.  Janie wears the blue shirt instead of the red one.  Opportunity cost.  Athan completes all his chores and gets an allowance.  Income in exchange for labor.

jpg_0744-Pig-bankStudents may be surprised to learn that their economic decisions have a huge impact on the economy.  Children’s buying habits impact major industries within the free market including clothing, technology, and food.  There are so many choices it’s often difficult to make good consumer decisions.

As adults our students will have many more economic decisions to make.  They’ll need to know about getting credit, buying a car, selecting a phone plan, and securing a mortgage.  Imagine the future.  It’s likely there will be even more fiscal challenges as society continues to change.  Today’s kids may have to choose which satellite to subscribe to, or how much they’re willing to pay for controlled air space rights when buying a property.jpg_Crisis5

Teaching students about fiscal literacy is important, but it can also be a lot of fun!  Once students understand the basic language of economics, it’s easy to demonstrate how these concepts apply to their everyday lives.

Not sure where to start?  Check out these FREE resources.

FREE activity book from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland that makes finances fun. Great Minds Think: A Kid’s Guide to Money is filled with engaging exercises to help students make thoughtful decisions about money.  Activities introduce concepts such as earning, spending, budgeting, and saving.  Click here to check it out.

a kids guide to money booklet picture coverFREE printables to introduce, review, and/or assess understanding of goods and services.  Download contains two (2) ready-to-use economics activities with teaching suggestions and a full-sized answer keys. Click here to check it out.


FREE online resource that teaches what the stock market is and how it works.  Activities include tutorials on how to pick good stocks and a 20 minute delayed Stock market simulation.  Click here to check it out.

Library Quest PictureFREE Economics 101 for Kids is a great online resource where students can read and learn about important concepts at their own pace.  Key terms link to definitions.  An online quiz is provided for students to check their understanding.  Click here to check it out.

Economics 101 website pic

FREE Social Studies and Language Arts Printables

I’m always amazed at how much free stuff there is on-line… if you just have time to look.  Ah-h, there’s the rub.  Who has time?  Here are a few resources that are ready for immediate use.

FREE Emancipation Proclamation Commemorative Coloring Book with text provides an overview of the history of the Emancipation Proclamation.  The coloring pages feature Abraham Lincoln and notable African Americans, including Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Barack Obama.  One of many free  government resources at Federal Resources for Educational Excellence.  Click here to see this coloring book.

FREE Word Box Worksheet Generator available at SchoolExpresss.  You can also make spelling, word search, and alphabetizing worksheets for your kids!  Click here to make a page like the one below.

Click here to check out this FREE list of transition words.  This is a great writing tool to share this students.  You’ll find a wealth of similar, print-and-go resources at Busy Teacher’s Cafe.

Transition Words PrintableClick here to check out this FREE KWL Chart with an engaging visual with lines for writing.  The easy-to-understand design brings home the point behind this common exercise.  Your students will love this lesson by Teachers Pay Teachers seller, Rebekah Benson.

KLW chart with brainClick here to check out this FREE Custom Writing Paper.  Design your own with images like Sponge Bob, Curious George, and Thomas the Tank.  Select other themes, too, such as animals, seasons, and holidays.  All writing paper can be printed in color or B/W, and with or without lines. Fun way to create writing paper for all occasions. also has links for creating awards, bookmarks, and greeting cards!

FREE Earth Day (April 22) Resources

According to the Earth Day Network, “Every year on April 22, more than one billion people take part in Earth Day.  Across the globe, individuals, communities, organizations, and governments acknowledge the amazing planet we call home and take action to protect it.”  This group even has a Green Schools Campaign designed to save money, conserve energy and water, and make us all healthier.

Below are some great projects and resources.  Whether it’s a coloring page, an art lesson, or a full-blown community project, any effort to create an awareness about our planet’s limited resources helps the cause.

Daria Sings for Earth Day                        Click here for this FREE Earth Day song, lyrics, and video download of “We’ve Got the Whole World in Our Hands.”

Scholasitc Earth Day Pattern news_0404_patternClick here for this FREE Earth Day Pattern.  Students think of ways to “give back” to the environment with this Earth Day display.  Have each child write and illustrate one way she can help care for the earth.  Mount each completed paper on a slightly larger piece of recycled gift wrap and add a bow to the top.  Display the projects around an enlarged globe pattern with the title shown.

Information and Coloring Sheet about endangered species for Earth DayClick here to check out FREE Endangered Species Worksheets and Coloring Pages like this one about the Przewalskis Horse.  Bring home environmental concerns in an interesting way that easily connects to reading and science curriculum.

Earth Day Mothers Day Magazine Rolled Necklace Bead PicClick here to check out this FREE Earth Day or Mother’s Day project using old magazine pages, scissors, glue, a toothpick, waxed paper, and some elastic beading thread.  Turn trash into treasure.  Kids feel empowered and moms love these colorful necklaces!

Go Green in the Classroom Teaching UnitClick here to check out this FREE Water Conservation Unit. Scholastic’s “Go Green” winner is chock full of ideas and is integrated across all curriculum areas.

FREE Shel Silverstein Poetry Workshop Kit

Since 1996 April has been celebrated as National Poetry Month.  With this FREE Shel Silverstein Poetry Workshop Kit your students can celebrate any time of the year.  Shel Silverstein’s classic poetry books such as Where the Sidewalk Ends, have long been loved by both children and adults.

This 10-page download contains reproducible writing activity sheets.  Each page introduces a different type of poetry including rhyming, epigram, visual, concrete, list, and rebus.  Not sure what each of this is?  No problem.  You’ll learn right along with your students, and you’ll both enjoy the charming Shel Silverstein illustrations.  Click here to check out this great free resource!ShelSilversteinPoetryUnit

FREE Poster: Children Need to Play

play+poster+image+for+postThis FREE printable poster reminds us about the importance of play.  Kids need it, but so do we!  It was designed by Christie Burnett, the brains behind Childhood 101.  You can check out the original post Modern Parents, Messy Kids.  Find the poster here!