Creative Ideas to Teach Phrasal Verbs

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Phrasal verbs can be creatively taught in the English as a second language classroom with the help of Total Physical Response (TPR) developed by John Asher. This technique has students respond physically to the commands of a teacher to help them remember vocabulary. Students then take the role of teacher to reinforce the new words.

1 List and Act

Act out a list of phrasal verbs that you want to teach students in a particular lesson. Keep your list short. About 10 or so phrasal verbs is all that you want to teach at one time. Say the phrasal verb as you act it out. The verbs that you teach should be related thematically to one another, not just on the common words in them.

Vocabulary Builder

2 Cut

Cut up strips of paper with phrasal verbs printed on them that students can act out, such as “stand up,” “sit down,” “cut out” and “hand out.” Give the strips to a few students in class. Tell each student to act out the phrasal verb that is on his piece of paper when you tell him to. Give students without strips of paper a list of phrasal verbs they will be learning for the day. Tell the acting students not to tell other students in the class what they are acting out. Split the students in the audience into two teams. Have the students in the audience guess what the phrasal verb is from the list of phrasal verbs you gave them. The person who says the right phrasal verb out loud gets a point for his team.

3 Flashcards

Using pictures related to each phrasal verb on your list of verbs to teach, make sets of flashcards. Give one set to each pair of students in the class. The pictures can be only vaguely related to the phrasal verb, but they should remind students of it. For example, for "out in left field," you can have a picture of a baseball sailing into left field. Have students in the pairs guess the correct phrasal verb for each card and give a sentence of that includes its correct meaning.

4 Move Fast

After teaching your list of phrasal verbs to students, have them practice by listening for their names and performing the action that you call out. See who can respond correctly to your command the fastest. You can also direct your commands to the entire class. Phrasal verbs such as "stand up," "sit down," "cover up" and "turn over" can be used for this exercise in the classroom.

5 Small Groups

Divide the students into small groups. Tell the students that each person in the group will practice giving instructions to others in the group using phrasal verbs. One student might say “stand up,” and the students in the group will stand up. Another might say “cut out the shape.” You will need to have shapes printed on paper on the table and enough scissors for everyone to cut out the shapes. Or, the student giving instructions can say, “Michal, cut out the shape, please,” so that you need only one pair of scissors and printed paper for each group.

Leyla Norman has been a writer since 2008 and is a certified English as a second language teacher. She also has a master's degree in development studies and a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology.