How to Set the Table: Prepositions of Place

When I was a child, I had two important jobs before a family feast like Thanksgiving. The first job was to help make the stuffing. The second was to set the table. I’ve passed these holiday feast duties on to my own kids, and I hope they will do the same.

Setting the table before a feast can be a lot of fun if you’re bringing out “the good dishes.” We use my mom’s silverware, which is kept in a special case lined with red velvet. It’s the same silverware I set the table with as a child, so it’s even more meaningful when I see my own kids marveling over the butter knives.

Have you thought about teaching your students how to set the table in English? Thanksgiving is the perfect time to teach vocabulary related to the dinner table. Bring in a few real items from home, or ask a few of your students to bring in a piece from home, such as a spoon, a cup, or a dinner napkin.


Here are some items you can bring in to class for a basic table setting. Teach the words that your students aren’t familiar with. Let your students take turns trying to set a table with a place setting, using the visual and audio guide (below).

  • a place mat (a piece of colored construction paper would work)
  • a large plate
  • a dinner napkin
  • a small plate
  • a butter knife
  • a fork
  • a knife
  • a glass (or a plastic cup)
  • a spoon

Vocabulary Worksheet

You can use the following template to explain where everything goes when setting the table. Teaching kids how to set the table is also useful for practicing prepositions of place. Have your students label the pieces before they decorate their place mat and dishes.

Listen and Practice

Play this audio for your students as they practice. You can also play the audio while your students fill out the vocabulary on the worksheet.
It’s time to set the table! First, put a place mat on the table in front of the chair. Next, place a large dinner plate in the middle of the place mat along the bottom edge. Place a folded napkin to the left of the dinner plate, and place a large dinner fork on the napkin. Place a small plate above the fork. This plate is for the bun or bread. Place a butter knife on the small plate. Next, place a dinner knife to the right of the big plate. Face the blade of this knife toward the dinner plate. (The blade is the sharp part.) Now place a glass or cup above the knife. Finally, place a spoon to the right of the knife. Repeat these steps for each setting. Congratulations. You set the table!


Thanksgiving Activity: Count Your Blessings
Be sure to try our Thanksgiving Word Bank lesson plan!


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Tara Benwell

Tara Benwell is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in materials and articles for the ELT industry. She is the media director and head writer for ESL-Library, and a contributor to its sister site Sprout English. Tara is the author of an iPad storybook series for kids called Happy Campers Books. Her debut novel, The Proper Order of Things is available on Amazon and in the iBookstore.

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