You can teach phrasal verbs using an authentic text in which phrasal verbs occur. Here the phrasal verbs are not necessarily linked in a thematic sense; their relationship depends on the surrounding text and is therefore more natural. This manner of teaching phrasal verbs is similar to teaching other items of vocabulary from context. Notice that in the text the phrasal verbs are highlighted in bold, this is so that learners notice them. The exercises are designed to get students to speculate about their meaning, before moving on to production. One of the advantages of this approach is its authenticity. You might want to make your own similar exercise from a text of your choosing. This however can be a difficult task. Works of fiction and letters tend to have more phrasal verbs than newspaper articles for example. This is because phrasal verbs are more common in informal language.
- Ask learners to make a list in English of all the things that come into their mailbox in an average week. Tell them to do this alone for one minute. Then compare with a partner. Who gets the most mail? Who gets the best mail? Tell the learners that today they will read a story about someone waiting for an important letter.
- Distribute the worksheet and ask learners to look at exercise A. Make sure they understand the questions. Tell them they have exactly one minute to read through the text. After the minute is up, tell them to turn their papers over and ask the questions.
Answers: a letter from the acting school; no, the letter didn’t arrive
- Now let them re-read the text. Tell them to do the questions in B, but allow more time for this. The learners could do this in pairs.
- Tell students to look at the phrasal verbs highlighted in the text. Working with a partner, they should try to explain what they think the phrasal verb means. They can use their own language or mime if they like. Direct them to a dictionary if they are completely stuck. Ask students to report back, then do exercise C where they have to fill in the gap with the correct phrasal verb.
- Show students the next five phrasal verbs in exercise D. After they have read the definition, tell them to think of an example sentence that could illustrate the phrasal verb. When they have one they should write it down. Then ask them to swap sentences with someone else to see what the other person has written. Finally, put the learners into pairs and ask them to write a follow up to this story, describing the day the important letter arrived. Tell them that they must try to incorporate at least two of the phrasal verbs from the list or the original text.
- You could collect the work and correct it later, or have students make some peer corrections on each other’s work. A nice follow up would be to let students exchange and read each other’s stories. Direct students’ attention to the tip on phrasal verbs for this lesson, which looks at how some phrasal verbs can have more than one meaning.
Optional Follow Up
If your learners have access to the Internet, they can do the online activities on phrasal verbs which are related to this lesson.