A small game for teaching two-way prepositions


Teaching grammatical concepts like two-way prepositions can be difficult, especially translating the theoretical concept into meaningful and possibly even interesting or motivating exercises and tasks.

I’ve always liked using small browser games in my classes to have students do something concrete and see the outcomes. Papert called these little helping tools “objects to think with,” something learners could manipulate and help them visualize theoretical concepts. (If you’re interested in the theoretical aspects behind this, I recommend reading Seymore Papert’s work on constructionism (with an “n”, not a “v”)). In short, how do we make students become bricoleurs, tinkereres, players?

The game I use is very simple; in fact it’s aimed at 10 year-olds. All you have to do is drag pieces of (mostly pink and gold) furniture and accessory pieces into an empty room. That’s it. You can’t even win. So in that sense it’s more of a simple simulation than a game. It’s a digital doll house. So here’s the progression of how I’d use this in my second-semester German class:

We meet in the language center; students receive a handout with all of the available furniture available in the game. We find all the German words for the items together, then I read to them where they have to move which items. Then students have to compare their final room with mine and see if they followed my descriptions. Then I ask them where the items are (grammatically speaking, they have to use the dative now…).

By now all students should understand what we’re doing. So now they are asked to do the same in pairs: one tells the other where to move which items. The second person then has to describe the room. Then they switch. This can also be done as a whole class, using the projector. One student can be the “furniture DJ.” It works really well if you have a smartboard, BTW.

It takes about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on which parameters you set. I’ve had a lot of fun myself and was amazed what kinds of rooms students produced. If you’re interested, check out some of my other posts about games and digital storytelling on my blog.

Link to the game mentioned. (Ideally use an ad-blocker to get rid of the enormous amount of ads…)

Felix Kronenberg is working at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN. His research interests include academic space design, video games and language learning, digital storytelling, and the culture of advertising. He teaches German and language pedagogy, and maintains the Language Technology Boot Camp blog and web site.

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