Orientating a scene: prepositions in travel guides

Goals

What and how do prepositions mean?

Begin by showing your class a list of prepositions (or - even better - ask them to generate the list themselves). Display the list on the board, and ask: what do prepositions do and how do they do it? The discussion should arrive at the following conclusions:

The language of audio guides

This activity looks at prepositions in a genre of writing: audio guides. This is an interesting genre to look at because one purpose of this kind of writing is to ask the reader to imagine that the speaker is there with them. The speaker of the text therefore orientates the listener in relation to the physical space - and so makes extensive use of prepositions. Read the following text with your students (also available on the handout below), which is an (adapted) audio guide from here. You could even ask a couple of students to act out the scene, imagining that they are listening to the audio guide as somebody reads it out loud

Now, let's walk into the British Museum and get started! The tour begins with the Great Court. The main entrance spills you into the Great Court - a glass domed space with the round reading room in the centre. Here you will find guides, a book store, toilets and eateries. Don't forget to look up at the magnificent glass ceiling. This delightful court was for over 150 years one of London's great lost spaces, closed off and gathering dust. Renovated in the year 2000, it is now the symbol of the museum. From the Great Court, doorways lead to all wings of this vast museum. To the left are the exhibits on Egypt, Syria and Greece, and that is what our tour covers. Start heading to the left side of the round reading room, where you'll find the entrance to the Egyptian gallery. Let's go!

After reading, ask students to discuss the following questions:

Their answers might include the following points, which you might also share with your students:

Focusing on prepositions

Next, let's focus on the use of prepositions and preposition phrases in the text, and think about why they are used. To do this, ask your students to first find all of the prepositions and preposition phrases and write them out in a column. It doesn't matter so much if your students don't find every single one, but here is the complete list of preposition phrases:

Now ask your students: what do you notice about this list? What patterns can you see, and why do you think those patterns are there, considering what type of text this is? Their ideas might include:

Creating an audio guide

For this writing task, students apply some of the grammatical features they have explored into a writing task of their own. Ask students to create an audio guide of their own, either based on a tour of the classroom/school, or you could ask them to do it for their own home. They should think carefully about their language choices, considering the use of the following and how they construct meaning:

Once finished, students should write a short 'linguistic commentary' on their own writing, analysing some of their language choices by providing examples and discussing how they construct meaning.

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