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Language and Communication On under in out  This resource has been viewed by a moderator.


Pupils use familiar words to describe position e.g. on and under, in and out.

Early years skill:Shape, space and measure
Early years typical range:30-50m
P-scales/Curriculum skill:Maths Shape Space and Measures
P-scales/Curriculum level:P7
TAP skill:Language (old categories)
TAP level:TAP42
Pre/Nat. Curriculum Area:not specified
Pre/Nat. Curiculum Standard:not specified
Section:Early Years (0-5yrs) info; Primary (5-11yrs) info
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Activity/strategy name and materials required How to do the activity Key principles for doing the activity and comments
Hiding game


3 common containers e.g. cup, box and hat

Small toy e.g. car/ball


Encourage the child to close their eyes and hide the toy 'under' one container

While the child is trying to find the toy model the word 'under'. "Is it under the hat", "Is it under the box"

When the child finds the toy encourage them to say where it is.

Swap roles the child now has a turn to hide the toy. Using a teddy or another child, pretend teddy is closing his eyes/or ask other child to close eyes and ask the child "Where shall we hide it?" The child then has to say where.

Start with just one preposition and give lots of models of e.g. "under"

For expression give forced alternative e.g. "is it under the hat or under the box"

When the child has learnt 'under' introduce another preposition and move on to discriminating between e.g. 'in and under'

Use sign for 'under' along with the word to help understanding

Use everyday situations to model the word 'under'

Understanding and using "on" and "under" through physical play

Class room furniture

PE furniture

Playground furniture

Play games in a small group sitting on the chair and sitting under the table, crawling on a mat or carpet and crawling under a table or chair. Comment on what the child is doing e.g. ' are on the mat' or ' are under the table'

Can the child give instructions about who must go under or on a piece of furniture?

This activity is much more fun in a PE setting or a playground if you can arrange it.

Label the children's activities with clear 2 or 3 word phrases.

Repeat the phrases over and over again to give lots of learning opportunities.

These concepts are taught in contrasting pairs to illustrate the concepts clearly.

Understanding "on" and "under" using small toys

Small plastic animals or Playmobil people.

Boxes and containers to hide the small toys.


Play games hiding small toys on or under objects .

Can the child find the toy? Can the child say where the toy is as they find it? Can the child tell you to put the toy so that another child has to look for it?

During the school day comment on the position of objects e.g. ‘Look......the pencil is under the desk’ etc.



Make this a fun game! Can some children not look while a toy is hidden by another child etc.?

Understanding "in" and "under" when looking at pictures

Use a published set of teaching pictures around the concepts of on and under.

Sort pictures into groups of ‘on’ and ‘under’ pictures.

Play posting games . Give the child the instruction ‘Post dog on box’, ‘Post dog under box’ etc.

Play feeding the monster games  -  feed the monster on and under pictures to make the activity fun.

Can the child be the teacher and give you instructions about what to do with on and under pictures.

Extend understanding of the concepts into everyday life by commenting on things that are clearly in and under other things.


Give lots of rewards for success and correct mistakes by saying ‘Look........this is on. Dog is on the box’ etc.

Understanding "in" and "out" through physical play

As above play in a small room or the PE hall or the playground and comment on children as they go in and out of tunnels cardboard boxes, even  shallow puddles maybe? Children can be asked to go in and out of a room in quick succession. Other children can comment on this activity.

Understanding "in" and "out" using small toys

Follow similar routines to those described for on and under. 

Bury things in the sand/water/play-dough. Ask children to get them out again.

Can the child tell you what to do. Does the child notice if you get it wrong?


Keep the activities fun and snappy!

Understanding "in" and "out" when looking at pictures

Comment on pictures in books e.g. Spot books have some good pictures.

Draw home made pictures of – for example - red balls in and out of boxes etc. Can the child draw a picture and tell you what it is ? Can the child tell a friend to draw an in/out picture and then comment on it?

Use a published set of teaching pictures around the concepts of in and out.

Play the kind of games described in the section on understanding on and under.


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