5 Effective ESL Phrasal Verb Activities That Promote Communication

No more monkey business—let’s get down to dealing with phrasal verbs right away.

Let’s hang out!

Maybe we can put down some excellent thoughts about phrasal verbs together.

Hold on, I can’t hear you!

Phrasal verbs are everywhere in the English language. They pop up in most discussions at the office and while spending time with friends and family.

Phrasal verbs are those short little two- and three-word phrases that can make or break your students’ ability to understand something during conversation or while reading. Don’t leave your students in the dark. Put them to the test and shed light on the phrasal verbs they will need to converse like native English speakers.

They already know a few phrasal verbs without realizing it, so wrap some context around what they already have in their English toolbox using these amazing phrasal verb communication activities.

Importance of Teaching Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs are an essential part of English communication and they are important for your students to know and understand. Phrasal verbs are commonly used at the office, in the household and in everyday conversation. They have become the beans and rice of English, so make sure your eager ESL students have more than a few phrasal verbs in their English vocabulary.

The recipe for phrasal verbs is a rather simple one. A verb plus one or two participles, maybe an adverb or preposition mixed together, shake with discussion or writing and there you have it: A simple phrasal verb ready for use.

For English learners, phrasal verbs are not always so simple. For a super fun and basic breakdown of phrasal verbs, be sure to screen the video below. Your students love the relatable movie scenes, and learning the phrasal verbs in context is super helpful for their comprehension. The video is from the FluentU English YouTube channel, which is packed full of relatable and educational materials. Be sure to subscribe to the channel to keep up to date with all the latest uploads.

Common Phrasal Verbs Used in Everyday Speech

  1. Hang out
  2. Put down
  3. Bring up
  4. Call off
  5. Hold on
  6. Watch out

If your students do not have knowledge of phrasal verbs, they run the risk of sounding strange, misunderstanding what they are reading or becoming confused during informal discussions. Phrasal verbs are too common in native English speech to be ignored in your ESL lessons.

As a tip, be sure to check out the FluentU platform for great videos highlighting phrasal verb use in native English conversation.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.

With quizzes and inbuilt flashcards, you’ll be able to turn native materials into enjoyable and engaging phrasal verb lessons with ease. 

Phrasal Verbs and Communication in the Classroom

Harboring an atmosphere of communication in your ESL classroom is an excellent way to get your students engaged, keeping them enthused about new materials or ESL activities. Let’s face the facts, ESL students are not all that interested in grammar or vocabulary lessons which require a worksheet, you presenting material and a lot of silence as they work.

ESL students are most likely taking your ESL lessons because they want to talk, share their ideas, put forward opinions and learn different perspectives using English. Some of your students may be in ESL class for work-related English and want to shine during business calls or while attending international conferences. Other ESL students want to vacation in English-speaking countries and communicate with locals. Whatever the specific reason, one main element remains: They all want to be exceptional English communicators.

Using communication in your class will have long-lasting benefits for your students and they will thank you for the informative and fun discussions they have with you and their classmates.

Great ESL Pairings for Phrasal Verb Practice

1. Student to teacher communication. You can implement this form of communication into your presentation stage, loosening up your students while giving them the new material they will need later in class.

2. Student to student communication. Letting students collaborate and discuss new material in presentation, practice and production (PPP) is great for overall communication.

3. Pair and group communication activities. Putting your students in pairs or groups allows them to work things out together as a team. It will also add organization to your lesson flow, making it easier for you to control larger classes.

When it comes to phrasal verbs, communication activities are a great way to present, practice and produce exceptional, long lasting ESL learning. Phrasal verbs are mainly used in communication and the old saying, “practice like you play” could be applied to learning phrasal verbs. Presenting new phrasal verbs and utilizing ESL communication in your lesson activities is a formula for student success and enthusiasm.

5 Effective ESL Phrasal Verb Activities That Promote Communication

1. Phrasal Verb Silent Movie Activity

The phrasal verb silent movie activity is an excellent communication activity your students will love. The principle behind this activity is rather simple and it will allow you to maintain class control. Your students have a chance to compete and collaborate as they try to guess a noun and one or two phrasal verbs. In this activity, your students will focus on teamwork, discussion and processing thoughts and ideas in English at a fast pace to earn points for their team.

To make the phrasal verb silent movie activity a success, you must first present a few new phrasal verbs to your students. This game would be even more beneficial if your students have multiple phrasal verbs in their English vocabulary already. This activity is a great Friday comprehension activity, reviewing phrasal verbs from the week before a short weekend break. Utilize this example worksheet to help you craft your own material.

Here’s how it works:

1. Present new phrasal verbs to your students and review a few from the week as well. Make sure your students are clear on the meaning and the proper usage for each phrasal verb.

2. Divide your students into two teams, Team A and Team B. Maybe let them develop team names to really get them excited and enthusiastic about the activity to come.

3. Picking students or having them elect representatives themselves may be tricky. A good rule of thumb is to number students in each team and randomly select numbers to ensure fairness.

4. You will pick a student from Team A and they will draw a card from you which will have a noun and phrasal verb used in a scenario.

5. The student from Team A will then act out the phrasal verb scenario to his or her team, without using words, for a few minutes or until the team guesses the correct noun and phrasal verb used in the scenario.

6. It is good to keep a time limit on the miming to also ensure fairness and keep the flow of the activity moving. Team A does not get the answer, then Team B can take a guess afterward.

7. The team that answers correctly is given a point. After Team A goes, a student representative for Team B is selected and the game continues.

8. The team with the most points at the end wins.

This ESL activity is full of great conversation and student collaboration, allowing your students to focus on English thought and communication in a fun way. This activity can also be used for multiple ESL skills.

2. Phrasal Verb Copy and Guess Game

The phrasal verb copy and guess game is another exceptional communication activity that harbors student learning success. This ESL activity is exceptional for group communication, as you will be dividing your students into teams and tallying points to decide which team wins. The copy and guess activity contains many aspects of ESL learning and covers reading, listening, writing, collaboration and English thought using new phrasal verbs.

To start, you will develop a worksheet with multiple phrasal verb questions. You can utilize this worksheet to help guide you in making a phrasal verb worksheet that will work best for your class. Each question will contain a phrasal verb and your students will have to create their own response sentence using personal experiences with the specific phrasal verb in the question.

Here’s how it works:

1. First things first, present the phrasal verbs you will utilize in the activity. These phrasal verbs can be a mix of previously discussed phrasal verbs as well as new ones. Make sure your students have a good grasp on each phrasal verb before continuing to ensure ESL learning success. This will allow your students to build more confidence when using new phrasal verbs.

2. Next, divide your students into two teams. Letting them come up with a fun team name will keep them enthused and ready for more to come.

3. Hand out your wonderfully-crafted worksheet with various questions containing phrasal verbs that were previously discussed in the presentation stage of the lesson.

4. Explain the instructions clearly. You could even have a practice round to ensure all your students are following the flow of the activity.

5. Select a student to represent each team, having them sit in front of their team. Team A will have one student in front of the class, as will Team B.

6. You will read the first question. For example, “What is an occasion or event you dress up for?” The phrasal verb is “dress up” and your students will write an answer using “dress up.” Your students will be silent during the writing part of the activity.

7. After everyone has completed their answer sentence, you will have each student read out his or her answer and if it matches with the student in front of the team, they receive a point. Let’s say the student representative for Team A answers with, “I dress up for church.” If 4 students from Team A answered with church, then Team A gets 4 points and so on.

8. The activity continues with a new team representative for each question.

This is an exciting, collaborative guessing activity that will get your students thinking in English and hearing several examples for one phrasal verb. This will drive home the meaning for specific phrasal verbs in a fun way.

3. Phrasal Verb Jeopardy

You may be familiar with one of the most popularly watched game shows in television history, “Jeopardy.” This game show is a great communication activity you can utilize in your phrasal verbs lesson. Jeopardy can help your students think quick, choose areas on the board they may be more familiar with and promote a challenging ESL atmosphere.

This is a great team activity that can be utilized for large and small class sizes since “Jeopardy,” the television game show, generally has only a few contestants. If you have a small class, your students can still benefit and it is also great for large classes, only you will be breaking your students into 3 or 4 teams.

Here’s how it works:

1. Again, it is important to ensure your students have the proper material and knowledge to complete any ESL activity successfully in order to build confidence and keep enthusiasm during the lesson. Challenge is great, but keep in mind the ESL method of “grading” when approaching your ESL activities.

2. You will want to carefully develop a worksheet or outline you can put on the board for your students to see the categories and questions easily. Your right column will have a few different verbs that will be used across the board, paired with the participles making them phrasal verbs.

3. Just like on the show, your students or student teams will choose a category to answer for points. The team with the most points at the end of the time limit wins.

This phrasal verb activity promotes English thought processing in a timely manner, collaboration and really puts comprehension to the test. Here is a great sample worksheet you can utilize when developing your own amazing Jeopardy activity.

4. Phrasal Verb Presentation Activity

Our next phrasal verb activity is a wonderful collaboration exercise that also gives your students a chance to present their work and knowledge to the class.

The phrasal verb presentation activity involves group participation and promotes confidence-building within the ESL lesson. Your students will work in groups, pairs and also have the ability to shine in front of their peers at the end of the activity. Here is a great example worksheet you can utilize when developing your own lesson material.

This ESL communication activity has 3 parts. The different parts of this exercise will depend on how many students you have in your class, but you can easily adjust this ESL activity to fit any size class.

Here’s how it works:

1. You will first discuss new and previously covered phrasal verbs to the class to ensure comprehension and answer any questions that may arise.

2. Next, divide your students into two teams: Team A and Team B. No need for team names in this activity since teams will not be competing against each other for points.

3. After your students are divided into teams, you will pass out the worksheet containing the phrasal verb questions. The teams will look over the questions and pair up with a partner.

4. Student A will answer the questions designated for Student A. Student B will do the same for the designated Student B questions. The partners will collaborate and help each other while discussing and filling in the blanks, creating the correct phrasal verbs.

5. After all questions have been successfully completed, have your students from Team A pair up with students from Team B. Each student will essentially interview their partner using the questions they had previously competed.

6. After your students have obtained all the information needed from their partners, each student will present their findings about their partner to the class.

This activity focuses on several ESL sub-skills, allowing your students to read, write, collaborate, listen and present material about someone else. It is an excellent communication activity that can also be beneficial for other areas of ESL and easily implemented in your other lesson plans.

5. Phrasal Verb Don’t Say It Activity

The phrasal verb “don’t say it” activity is an excellent pair exercise your students will really enjoy.

This phrasal verb activity will keep your students eager to learn more while staying enthused about the new material. Communication activities are exceptional for keeping ESL students interacting and encouraged about learning more and more English. You can also use this activity for other areas of ESL learning, building an atmosphere of fun in your ESL lessons.

In this activity, students will be paired together and will compete against other pairs for points. If you have a large class, you can forego the pairs and separate your students into small groups to allow for more rounds in the game.

In pairs, Student A will pull a card which has a sentence containing a phrasal verb. He or she will have to act out the sentence using words and body language for their partner, Student B to guess the phrasal verb. The catch in this activity is that Student A cannot use certain words in his or her description of the sentence. This makes the activity more challenging and promotes quick, concise English thought.

Here’s how it works:

1. First, touch on some phrasal verbs that will be used in the activity during your presentation.

2. You will then separate your students into pairs or groups depending on class size and time.

3. Student A will receive a card with a phrasal verb sentence on it. For example, “She blew out candles on her birthday cake.” The phrasal verb Student B will have to guess correctly is blew out or blow out. The context of the sentence helps Student A to understand the described action and figure out how to express the idea of the phrasal verb.

4. Student A will also see on the card that he or she cannot use the words blow, blew, out, birthday or cake. This will challenge Student A to come up with some different English alternatives while Student B has to use his or her English in-depth.

5. If Student B gets the phrasal verb, the team gets a point. The students will change positions and the activity will continue.

Your students will love this exciting and challenging phrasal verb activity.

They may even forget they are learning as they begin processing new phrases in English faster and faster!

Communication is important in ESL lessons and it is the cornerstone to successful student growth and eagerness to continue their language learning.

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