Learning verbs for ESL students can be challenging, and that’s why you want to make the class fun! If you’re looking for some of the best ESL phrasal verbs lesson ideas, then you’re certainly in the right place. We have the top phrasal verb ESL games and activities, along with worksheets and other ideas to have a great TEFL class.
What is a Phrasal Verb?
In English, phrasal verbs are used to indicate action. Some examples include stand up, sit down, and look forward to. They consist of a verb + a preposition or adverb. The addition of the preposition of the adverb changes the meaning of the verb.
Phrasal Verbs ESL Games and Activities
Let’s get into the top ideas for your lesson plan!
#1: Charades or Pictionary with Phrasal Verbs
A fun way to review new vocabulary is to use charades (acting) or Pictionary (drawing), and teammates have to guess what the secret phrase is. Depending on the level of the students, you could just require the phrasal verb itself, or you might put it into a longer phrase (wake up early).
#2: Error Correction Game
#3: Phrasal Verb Matching: Rock-Scissor-Paper
This is a nice way phrasal game for beginners to get some practice with making phrasal verbs! Make up a list of phrasal verbs and cut them out into the verb and then the preposition or adverb on separate slips of paper.
Each student will get a few of these words and will have to circulate around the class to find a match. Once they do, students can do rocks-scissor-paper, and the winner takes both slips of paper and gets one point. To complete the phrasal game, have students act out the action or put it into a sentence. Find out more:
#4: More Phrasal Verbs in Use
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 98 Pages - 02/28/2021 (Publication Date)
If you want to give your students some practice opportunities with phrasal verbs, then consider picking up this book. There are dozens of dialogues with hundreds of commonly used phrasal verbs in the USA and around the world.
It’s perfect for a homework assignment, or even consider using the book in a vocabulary class. Pick up your copy today:
#5: Simon Says
If you teach kids, then consider using this classic game to review phrasal verbs. Students have to do the action that the teacher (or another student says), but they have to listen carefully to make sure that Simon says to do it!
#6: Phrasal Verb Vocab Auction
#7: Listening Lesson Plan with Phrasal Verbs
To introduce phrasal verbs, most people use either a reading passage or a listening one. I sometimes build my entire lesson around a single listening passage by first setting the context, then having students listen for gist and then detail. Finally, I’ll focus on the phrasal verbs that are used. Then, there will be some practice time, first very controlled and then freer.
Find out all the steps that I follow when I do this kind of lesson:
#8: Rote Memorization of New Vocabulary
I know that rote memorization has kind of fallen out of favour these days when it comes to language teaching and learning. However, it does certainly have some value in terms of phrasal verbs.
There are so many of them, and in many cases, the meaning can’t really be deduced from knowing the meaning of the verb and then the meaning of the adverb or preposition. It might be another thing altogether.
Here are some thoughts about the place of rote memorization in a language class:
#9: Error Correction Relay Race
A nice way to make something old (error correction) new again is to make it into a relay phrasal game like this one! Students have to work together to correct a passage with some phrasal verb errors. I like to include a mix of form and meaning.
Want to give it a try? Find out more here:
#10: Vocabulary Review Game
Try out this quick review activity for smaller classes. Students have to give hints about a secret word to one of their classmates, who has to guess what it is. For example, if the secret word is “wake up,” students might say:
- The first thing you do in the morning.
- Opposite of going to sleep.
Or, if the secret word is “look up to,” students might give the following hints:
- Same as respect or admiration.
Of course, you’ll want to choose phrasal verbs that have been previously introduced to students. Try it out:
#11: Songs with Phrasal Verbs
I loved to use songs in my classes! Even though I’m not musical myself, it’s not a big deal because there are plenty of people on YouTube who are! Have a look around, and you’re sure to find something that’ll work for your students.
#12: Concentration Memory Game
This is a simple way for beginners to learn some new vocabulary and work on their memorization skills at the same time! Make up some cards, half with the phrasal verb and then the other half with the matching picture.
Put students into small groups. They can mix up the cards and place them face down on the desk in an orderly fashion. The first student turns over two cards, and if they match, they keep them and get a point. If not, they place them back in the same spot, and the next student goes.
#13: Sentence Building ESL Activities
Time spent on making better English sentences is never wasted time! Phrasal verbs can be a little bit tricky because there are transitive and intransitive ones.
A transitive phrasal verb takes an object. It’s possible to put the object between the verb and the adverb or preposition or after it. The meaning is the same. For example:
- Hang your coat up.
- Hang up your coat.
However, there are some intransitive verbs that do not take an object and cannot be separated. For example, grow up.
For some ideas to work on sentences, here are some of my top picks:
#14: Dialogue Substitution
#15: Extensive Reading
If you want to help students expand their vocabulary knowledge, then you’ll want to get them to do some extensive reading. It’s a natural way to pick up new words, remember previously learned ones and also see how words are used in context. Consider spending some class time doing it, and I’m sure you’ll have some great results.
And of course, phrasal verbs will feature strongly in this as they really are quite common in the English language, particularly in passages with lots of spoken dialogue. Find out more about this:
#16: Consider Using the Bilingual Method
If you share a language other than English with your students, consider using it once in a while! It can be quite difficult to explain some phrasal verbs in English, so why not quickly say them in the language that you share? It can save a ton of time, in some cases. Find out more here:
ESL Phrasal Verbs Worksheets
If you’re a teacher, then I’m sure you know how much time it can save to use what other teachers have created! That’s why I recommend checking out these ESL phrasal verb worksheets available online like English Grammar.
ESL Phrasal Verb Dialogues and Practice
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 66 Pages - 12/17/2020 (Publication Date)
For even more, be sure to check out this book on Amazon: The Big Book of Phrasal Verbs in Use. This vocabulary builder book is ideal for students who want to increase their confidence in English. There are dialogues, a vocabulary focus, and then practice opportunities.
You can find the book in both digital and print formats. Check it out for yourself on Amazon:
FAQs About Teaching ESL Phrasal Verbs
Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about ESL phrasal verbs and the answers to those questions!
How do you teach ESL phrasal verbs?
When teaching phrasal verbs to ESL students, you can use games and activities like Pictionary, Error Correction Game, Simon Says, Vocab Auction, Relay Race, Songs, Memory Game, and Sentence Building.
What are the 10 most used phrasal verbs?
Some of the most common phrasal verbs include calm down, catch up, do over, eat out, figure out, give up, go over, hang out, hold on, look for, pass out, throw away, turn up, wake up, and work out.
What is the formula for phrasal verbs?
Formula for the phrasal verb: verb + adverb + preposition
Have your Say about Teaching Phrasal Verbs ESL
Do you have a go-to phrasal game or activity that you like to use for teaching these? Please leave a comment below and let us know what you think about it. We’d love to hear from you.
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Last update on 2022-06-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API