Standard Lesson

Polishing Preposition Skills through Poetry and Publication

6 - 8
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Four 50-minute sessions
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Through the text Behind the Mask, students have the opportunity to deepen and refine their understanding of prepositions, including some of the more confusing standard usage guidelines, while enjoying the vivid pictures of Ruth Heller. After reading Behind the Mask, students discuss the book, focusing on the use of prepositions in the text. Taking those experiences as a reader, students continue to engage with the prepositions by composing prepositional poems, modeled on the text of Behind the Mask. To conclude the project, students create study guides that demonstrate their more advanced understanding of prepositions.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

"Grammar worksheets and grammar textbooks have their place and their purposes, but their limitations are serious," cautions Brock Haussamen in his chapter "Discovering Grammar" from Grammar Alive! A Guide for Teachers (16). As an alternative, he suggests that "we should teach grammar from authentic texts as much as possible. You can use the literature students are reading . . . to demonstrate any grammar lesson. You can also use the students' own writing to illustrate points of grammar-to illustrate not just errors but effective grammar as well" (17).

Constance Weaver similarly advocates for learning grammatical structures and sentence patterns by imitating quality literature in Teaching Grammar in Context (189). While her argument applies to all grade levels, she notes that "by the middle school level . . . many students should benefit from imitating literary sentences that feature [more advanced] constructions" such as the special standards for preposition use in the book featured in this lesson, Behind the Mask.

Further Reading

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.

Materials and Technology

  • Behind the Mask by Ruth Heller

  • Writer's Notebook



Student Objectives

Students will

  • identify prepositions in a text and discuss their role in writing, based upon a shared reading experience.

  • apply their understanding of prepositions to a poetry writing experience.

  • publish their work using a combination of image and text.

  • demonstrate mastery of advanced conventions in preposition use.

Session One

  1. Read Behind the Mask by Ruth Heller to the class, allowing for student participation. Encourage students to play with the language of the text as you share the picture book.

  2. When you finish reading the book, ask students to share what they noticed about the book. Answers will vary from bright colorful illustrations to variations in font. Note their answers on the board or chart paper for reference as you discuss the text.

  3. Once students have identified such features as the use of very descriptive words or the variety in text font, shift to questions about how prepositions work in the text.

  4. Choose your entry point depending on student prior knowledge. Review the function of prepositions if needed. Consult Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab entry on prepositions for background if necessary.

  5. Pass out copies of the Prepositions handout to help students identify the prepositions in the picture book.

  6. Point out that this book is a guide for how to use some confusing prepositions correctly.

  7. Look back at the second half of the book and review the more advance guidelines with students.

Session Two

  1. Share the sample poem you have written (see Preparation section) that follows the guidelines from the handout.

  2. Pass out copies of the Preposition Poetry Guidelines.

  3. Review how your sample poem matches the Preposition Poetry Guidelines.

  4. Pass out the Prepositional Poetry Project Rubric and discuss the expectations for the project that students will complete.

  5. Invite students to create their own preposition poem in their writer’s notebook.

  6. Depending upon experience level of students and needed accommodations, students can work in partners or independently.

Session Three

  1. Explain that the class will return to the poems written in the previous session and publish them in a style based on Behind the Mask.

  2. Briefly review a few key images and sections of text from the book.

  3. Ask students to think about how they can make all or part of their poem come to life in a similar fashion. Encourage students to share and discuss their ideas.

  4. Introduce the ReadWriteThink interactive Multigenre Mapper.

  5. Demonstrate how to include details in the different portions of the tool:

    • Write the title of the poem in Blank A.

    • Write the student’s name in Blank B.

    • Write the text of the poem in Blank C.

    • Illustrate the poem in the drawing box.
  6. Remind students that their illustrations should show what one or more preposition(s) in their poem is/are doing.

  7. Suggest that students use the Prepositional Poetry Project Rubric to evaluate their poems before printing the final copies.

Session Four

  1. Arrange students in pairs, and explain that each pair will make a study guide for the 5 guidelines at the end of the Preposition Poetry Guidelines, using the Flip Book to publish their work.

  2. Review the expectations for the project using the Prepositional Poetry Project Rubric.

  3. Demonstrate the Flip Book and/or share a blank flip book, so that students understand the format they will use for their final drafts.

  4. Ask student pairs to devote a page in their Flip Book study guide to each of preposition guideline.

  5. Review the layouts available in the Flip Book. For each guideline, ask students to include the rule, a written example clarifying the rule, and an image that relates to the example.

  6. Have students print their study guides at the end of the session, and share them with classmates in preparation for assessment or use in a larger written assignment.


Student Assessment / Reflections

  • As students work on their poems, watch for indications that they understand the grammatical form and function of prepositions. Note how students work together, rely on their own knowledge, and consult to reference information in the classroom.

  • Respond to students’ poems using the Prepositional Poetry Project Rubric as a guide.


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