A Phrasal Verb Story

Here’s a story I made with a few phrasal verbs in it. It’s intended for higher levels, but depending on the activity, could work with Intermediate students. I devised it not only to teach a bit of new vocab, but as a vehicle for looking at phrasal verbs with regards to idiomaticity, pronunciation and form (separability). This is what I did:

1) Warmer – Students asked if they have seen any fights or violent behaviour. Asked what the common reasons / locations for violent behaviour are in their countries / England.

2) Reading for comprehension – students can read to answer the question “How is the main character doing now / Where is he now?”

3) Students go through text and underline phrasal verbs

4) Students categorise them in to three columns (don’t give them titles, ask them to sort them as they wish)

5) Groups rationalise their choices

6) Look at phrasal verbs in terms of pronunciation rules, separability and levels of idiomaticity (I believe that each of these three categories can be split in to three columns – for more information see my essay: 

Teaching Phrasal Verbs to Lower Learners (particularly pages 3-7)

Drill, answer questions etc.

7) Gap fill / other controlled practice activity

8) Get them speaking – role play, or writing a story.

As a follow up to this lesson, I gave students the following muddled up version of the original story. NB: This is difficult, but my class were all CAE / CPE students, and coped well.

Phrasal Verb Story Muddle



Phrasal Verbs

“Teacher, I want more phrasal verbs”. Ever heard that one before? Students come here with this idea that phrasal verbs are a mystical force, a secret code that we native speakers talk in so as to exclude all the “outsiders”. Nothing could be further from the truth, but we are almost cornered in to teaching them as if they were magic. They aren’t; they’re vocab. Yes, some are idiomatic. Yes, some are separable. But these are only aspects of meaning and form.

I did a bit of research in to this area after deciding that course books don’t deal with them at all satisfactorily and I stumbled across the idea of a lexical notebook. It came from this “Teaching Collocation” by Michael Lewis, and Scribd has it here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/76949359/Teaching-Collocations-1

Basically, it encourages students to view vocabulary sententially, but this is particularly helpful for phrasal verbs, as they are then encouraged to record these by topic and co-text rather than in a long list called “Phrasal Verbs”.

I spent some time analysing phrasal verbs, and you can find a copy of my work here:


What I’ve also done is attach my step-by-step lesson plan for my first DELTA observation, along with the text I prepared. It’s for Intermediate level, but it gives a possibility of how phrasal verbs can be introduced on your terms to a class with typical concerns about them. I found the language from a text method really useful, because it encouraged students to discover the vocabulary for themselves, thereby seeing it in context and viewing it as vocab rather than magic. The links to the lesson are below:

Lesson Staging

Email reading

Email reading BOLDED

Email reading GAP FILL

I was pretty happy with this lesson and it passed the first assessment, so even happier!