This post may contain affiliate links.
Do you teach phrasal verbs to your English students, and wonder if there’s a more fun way to have the lesson? Are you tired of textbooks with Phrasal Verb worksheets that are dry and boring, or lists of verbs students find impossible to memorize?
I hear you! Today’s post is to help you tackle this difficult grammar topic with your students.
Here’s what usually happens you say “Phrasal Verbs”:
First, your students groan, complain, or have an otherwise displeased look on their faces. That’s to be expected! If their native language is something like French or Spanish, for example, phrasal verbs are a complete mystery.
Second, they become stressed at the sheer number of phrasal verbs out there, and the multiple meanings for so many of them. Especially when students are studying for standardized exams, like the First Certificate or TOEFL, they tend to worry about that grammar beast: phrasal verbs.
Now, you can actually get your students to have fun while learning, even if you’re trying to teach phrasal verbs – I promise! Actually, one of my very first posts on this blog about a new Phrasal Verbs Game I created was about exactly that. However, two of the topics I get asked about the most are phrasal verbs, and exam preparation (TOEFL, FCE, etc). So, I thought a longer post about different methods was in order.
5 Fun & Innovative Ways To Teach Phrasal Verbs
1. The Phrasal Verb Game
The Ultimate Phrasal Verbs Game, as I like to call it, is quite simple. After noticing how much my tutoring students struggled with putting phrasal verbs in context, I created cut-out cards with phrasal verbs on them. Then, I had them draw out of a bag and blindly choose 10 phrasal verbs. Next, they create a story using those verbs. Of course, we learn them first if they are new!
For a challenge, have students use the cards in the order they draw them.
This game has worked wonders for teens, adults, university students, private tutoring sessions and large classes.
You have access to my Free Printables Library, right? That’s where I keep all the goodies you can download for free and use in your ESL lessons! The Phrasal Verb game is in there, as are many Phrasal Verb worksheets. I update the library every month, so it’s always growing 🙂
2. Create A (Personally Relevant!) Story
My first rule of tutoring sessions is to get to know the student. Once you know their likes, dislikes, hobbies and what makes them happy, it is so much easier to plan lessons for them. For example, I recently discovered that one of my adult ESL students loves architecture and wine. I just so happen to subscribe to Architectural Digest, and love finding out more about wine. So, our lesson plans have been on vocabulary surrounding those topics, using phrasal verbs where possible!
If you’re stuck for an idea, or pressed for time you can always use BBC English’s Phrasal Verbs episodes for a short cartoon story. Sometimes just seeing phrasal verbs in action can help students remember them better.
3. Memory or Matching Game
Memory or matching card games where you choose one card and must then use the other can be a lot of fun. You know, that memory card game you played with shapes and colours when you were a child? Adapt it for your ESL kids and adults. For example, you could draw a verb, and come up with a phrasal verb, or draw a preposition and come up with a verb. There are at least 3 phrasal verbs worksheets in my free library – so go ahead and check them out!
4. Role Play Scenario
Is this one just for kids? Not in my books! Again, find out what your student’s goals are (here’s how) and create a role play scenario they can actually use. For example, I often create business meeting scenarios for business English students, or make mock interviews or conferences.
Sometimes, students are worried about speaking English on an upcoming trip, so we role play hotel, restaurant and asking for direction conversations. Be creative!
5. Watch Series or Episodes To Teach Phrasal Verbs
This one is new for me! I discovered this when working on listening skills with a student of mine who wanted to watch Friends but found some of the vocabulary difficult.
After 15 minutes of watching with her, I realized why. There were so many phrasal verbs! So, her homework for the next week was to watch the next 15 minutes and write down all the phrasal verbs and how they were used.
3 More Ways To Make Grammar Fun
Well, okay, you say – but what if I’m teaching some other kind of grammar? Students often struggle with speaking in the conditional, learning to use past tenses correctly, or other language challenges.
I’ve got you covered!
Here are 3 ideas:
1. Teach With Songs
Now, I know this one is not for everyone, but if you missed my post on Teaching English with Songs it may be an idea to check out. You may think that only children want to listen to songs, but remember you can use any song your students like! That makes it fun for everyone.
You can use Beyonce’s “If I Were A Boy” to teach the conditional, and a whole bunch of songs to teach the past tenses. Even if they use the present tense in the song, teach phrasal verbs, expressions and new vocabulary first – then ask students to re-tell the story in the past.
Actually, I have a free La La Land lesson plan for you, in case you missed that post.
2. Let Students Choose The Topic
Can you hear the echo? 😉 Yes, I’m aware that I may be repeating myself, but getting to know your students is key. If you make the topics personally relevant or simply allow them to choose the topic, your lessons will go that much more smoothly.
This is SO important, especially when working with kids. Of course, you’ll have to choose the topic sometimes. Giving them a little freedom to choose though goes a long way. Let them choose the singer they like best, the essay topic they want to write on, and let them make the main characters of stories they write you superheroes, or whoever they are into at that moment. (One of my 8-year-old students loves Harley Quinn . I had no idea who she was actually, but it turns out she’s Joker’s girlfriend from Batman). So some of our activites are based on DC Comics!
3. Be Flexible
Actually, I think that this is one of my main tips as a teacher – be flexible! Remember that learning grammar can take a lot of concentration, and you may not be able to go as fast as you think you can with every student. Sometimes, you’ll have to split a grammar lesson into two sessions. Other times, when your private tutoring students are exhausted, you’ll have to move a new grammar concept to a different day. If you want to teach phrasal verbs, be sure your students are alert and refreshed!
By the way, given the wonderful responses from those who let me know what they’d like to see in the printables library (you can, too), I’m thinking of making a phrasal verbs online course to help ESL students. If that’s something you’re interested in, please comment below and let me know 🙂
What is your favourite way to teach phrasal verbs? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments section below!
P.S. Photography aficionados, the photo for the main image in this post is one I took last month in Berlin, Germany.
Grab Your Free Teaching Printables!
Join to grab your Ultimate Phrasal Verbs Game and Goal Setting Template freebie. Also, get access to a library of free teaching printables and motivational posters which I update monthly, and other exciting updates! Don't miss out!