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Tips And Activities For Teaching Phrasal Verbs

Tips and activities for teaching phrasal verbs

Phrasal verbs have long been the bane of English language learners, from beginners to advanced speakers. As an English teacher, you’ve probably seen many students feel worried and overwhelmed when dealing with these tricky language structures.

Expressing their frustration, students very often declare, “Phrasal verbs are my worst nightmare,” and “I need to work on them, but they make no sense!”. This sentiment is quite common among learners and presents a distinctive teaching hurdle that we, as educators, need to address. 

So let’s uncover the underlying reasons behind students’ sense of impossibility, and arm ourselves with innovative strategies to tackle this teaching challenge effectively.

Why are phrasal verbs so challenging for students?

To address this phrasal verb dilemma effectively, it’s essential to put ourselves in our students’ shoes. Why do English learners find phrasal verbs so daunting? 

For learners, the challenge arises from the apparent lack of logic. Unlike many aspects of English grammar that follow systematic rules, phrasal verbs often appear as unpredictable combinations of verbs and prepositions or adverbs.

The first step in helping our students is acknowledging their anxiety and offering reassurance. We must convey that phrasal verbs, though scary at first glance, are indeed manageable. 

A crucial point to emphasize is that students already use phrasal verbs in their daily lives, often without realizing it. A simple question like, “What time did you wake up today?” reveals that they’ve employed a phrasal verb (wake up) naturally. This realization can alleviate some of the initial fear.

Building on this newfound confidence, we can introduce students to basic phrasal verbs they encounter regularly, especially in the context of the digital age. 

For instance, phrasal verbs such as “log in,” “log out,” and “fill in” are everywhere in the world of technology. By highlighting these familiar terms, students begin to grasp that they already possess a foundation in phrasal verbs. This foundation becomes a solid stepping stone for further exploration.

Engaging Activities for Phrasal Verb Mastery

Now, let’s explore a range of engaging activities designed to help students master phrasal verbs and develop a sense of familiarity and fluency:

1. Dr. Google Activity

This activity involves students selecting a verb and a list of prepositions that can accompany it. Instead of asking students to provide meanings or examples, guide them to perform an online image search using the chosen phrasal verb. 

For example, searching for “get up” reveals numerous images of people standing up from their bed or chair. This visual approach enhances comprehension and memorisation, as students associate the action with the phrasal verb.

2. British Council’s Phrasal Verbs Resources

The British Council offers a wealth of phrasal verb materials on its website. These include comic-style videos that explain phrasal verbs within the context of short narratives. Accompanied by exercises and transcripts, these ready-to-use resources simplify the process of teaching phrasal verbs. You can seamlessly integrate them into your lessons, saving valuable preparation time.

3. Song Analysis

Music is a universal language, and it can be a powerful tool for teaching phrasal verbs. Assign students a song that contains phrasal verbs and ask them to listen to it before the lesson. Encourage them not only to enjoy the music but also to grasp the song’s context and message. During the lesson, dissect the lyrics together, highlighting phrasal verbs and discussing their meanings. Engage students in discussions about the song’s content, their preferences, and their interpretations. This approach creates a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere for language exploration.

4. Role Play and Storytelling

Incorporate phrasal verbs into role-play activities and storytelling exercises. Provide students with scenarios where they must use phrasal verbs in natural conversations. For example, simulate job interviews, casual conversations at a café, or negotiations between characters in a story. This practical application reinforces their understanding and encourages active usage.

5. Creative Writing

Encourage students to craft short stories or essays that incorporate specific phrasal verbs. Assign topics that necessitate the use of phrasal verbs in context. This activity challenges them to apply their knowledge in a creative and meaningful way, reinforcing their grasp of these expressions.

Make teaching phrasal verbs fun!

Teaching phrasal verbs might seem tough, but it doesn’t have to be. Let’s make it fun and engaging! By understanding our students’ concerns, and helping them to build a strong foundation, we can demystify this challenging area of English grammar. And, with fun, interactive activities, phrasal verb lessons can be engaging and memorable. 

Plus, check out ELSA, our app for English learners. If you’re an English teacher, join our affiliate program and earn commissions by recommending it to your students. 

Happy teaching!

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