EFL - ESL activities and games for teaching prepositions of time

An ESL lesson plan for teaching prepositions of time to intermediate level students. Feel free to use these ideas your classes and If you use an Android device, don't forget that you can get offline access to these materials through the TEFL Handbook app.

Lead-in activity

This ESL sample board can be used to highlight the usage of the prepositions of time in, at and on. Students at this level will be aware of these prepositions, but some will still get confused with their use. Therefore, the board serves as a nice lead-in activity that should get your students on the same page. The text in blue suggests opportunities to elicit responses.

EFL - ESL Lead-in activity for prepositions of time | Intermediate

ESL activities for prepositions of time

Preposition table

This activity is excellent for practising prepositions of time. Draw a table on the board with the columns no preposition, in, on and at. Have the students copy the table and add the following expressions to the bottom of the board:

Friday evening, September, yesterday morning, Christmas day, summer, midday, the 8th of September, tomorrow, the 15th century, the afternoon, Easter, tomorrow evening, the morning, lunchtime, 1981, half past seven, next year.

Students will work in pairs to populate the table with the above expressions.

Weekdays vs weekend

For this ESL speaking activity, students practise using prepositions of time by contrasting weekdays with the weekend. First, elicit some typical daily activities and add them to the board. Some examples could be:

Get up
Have breakfast, lunch or dinner
Work/School
Arrive at work/school
Meet with friends
go on holiday
Do sports/hobbies
Spend time with family
Go to bed

In groups of three or four, the students will now ask each other questions to find out how their weekday routines differ from their weekends. Monitor for the correct usage of time prepositions and demo with a student before the others begin. You may also want to encourage the use of frequency adverbs:

Teacher: What time do you get up on weekdays?
Student: I usually get up at 7:45.
Teacher: What about at the weekend?
Student: A lot later, normally at 11 o’clock.

Yesterdays

For this speaking activity, students will take turns interviewing each other about what they did yesterday. They should talk about each part of the day and use times where appropriate. The person who is interviewing should be encouraged to ask follow-up questions. Demo this with a stronger student first. During the interviews, you should monitor for the correct usage of prepositions of time, frequency adverbs and the past simple.

Related games

Our game ideas are suitable for low-resource classrooms, so all you'll need is whiteboard, markers and some students.

Preposition sketch

For this fun ESL game idea, students will need a small blank piece of paper, about half the size of an A4 sheet. Divide the class into two teams in a manner where no team member is sitting next to another. Assign each student a time expression and tell them to write it in the corner of one side and their name in another corner on that same side.

The students then turn over the paper and write a sentence that is true for them using the given time expression. The should write about something that they did or will be doing at that time and they must keep it secret. Once they have finished writing, have them turn over the paper again and inform them that they will have two minutes to draw a picture that represents their sentence.

After the time is up, collect the pieces of paper, keeping a separate pile for each team and making sure that the drawing is facing upward. One group at a time, elicit the correct sentence for each piece of paper. The owner must remain silent while their team is guessing. Award a point when a team guesses a sentence. Some sample time expressions to help you:

1. Friday evening
2. September
3. lunchtime
4. the afternoon
5. the morning
6. 2014
7. Christmas day
8. Christmas
9. midday
10. next year

Hot seat

We can modify this ESL favourite to practise prepositions of time. Divide the class into two teams. On each turn, one student will sit with their back to the board facing their teammates, and you will write 3 random time expressions on the board (including the preposition). The team in play must make the player in the hot seat say the words on the board without saying the preposition or time expression. Time each group with a stopwatch. Depending on the level of the class, they should get all of them in under 2 minutes. The team with the lowest time wins. Play as many rounds as you have time for. Some examples to get you going:

At night
In the summer of 69
At Christmas/Easter
On Fridays
In October
In the 21st century

Additional EFL - ESL resources

To give you a few more lesson planning options, here are some links to free online resources for teaching prepositions of time.

The Prepositions of time (on, in, at) and PREPOSITIONS OF TIME worksheets at islcollective are fantastic for revising this topic.

For an alternative approach on how to present this subject, check out How to Teach Prepositions of Time by Tara Arnsten at busyteacher. Also, there's a great collection of EFL - ESL activities for teaching time prepositions at teach-this.com. Most of these are geared toward elementary level learners, but there are a couple at the pre-intermediate level that look like they could be fun to try.

If you have access to video in your classroom, have a look at the Brittish Council's video on prepositions of time. It should work fine for both teenage and adult learners. You may want to prepare a few comprehension questions beforehand. Also, the video below by Wall Street English Indonesia could serve as a fun warm up, before you start into the board-work.

More B1 ESL lesson plans

We hope that you were able to grab a few ideas from this lesson plan. Our suggested next lesson is on the present tenses. Be sure to check out our complete collection of intermediate level lesson plans. For other levels, have a look at our entire collection of ESL lesson plans. Also, if you are an Android user, the best way to view this content is through the TEFL Handbook Android application. An ESL lesson planner for English teachers, designed for in-class use.

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