phrasal verbs 1

This activity revises phrasal verbs students are familiar with. It implies a bit of imagination or drawing skills (or both) in addition to language competence. Select about 10 phrasal verbs you would like to revise with your students. I will be using this list as an example for an Upper-Intermediate class. You will be using your own.

  • run after: chase (police running after a thief)
  • run around: be busy with many activities (a waiter running around all night)
  • run away: escape (a thief running away from the police)
  • run into: meet or find accidentally (run into an old friend)
  • run off: print (run off 25 copies)
  • run out of: no more left (to run out of milk)
  • run over: hit (a car running over a pedestrian)
  • run through: practice, rehearse (run through a song)
  • run to: amount to (as in the bill ran to two hundred euros)
  • run up: gather (run up huge debts)

Clarify meaning with the students. You may be using photocopiable material or exercises from your textbook as input instead of a list.

Step 1

Ask the students to get a blank piece of paper, fold it a few times and cut along the folds to get eight small pieces of paper out of it. Give them about five minutes to draw as many phrasal verbs (as if they were playing a game of Pictionary) on the cards as they can from the list in the allotted time.


run into (an old friend)

Collect about 20 or 30 cards and pin them to the board with blu tack or celltape. Get a few students to do the job. Then number each drawing.

Now invite your students to come to the front with pen and paper and try to guess the phrasal verb hidden under each drawing by writing the numbers and the corresponding phrasal verbs on their papers. Give them about 5 minutes.

They can now mill about and compare with peers for a couple of minutes.

Variation: if you have a computer and a projector, you can collect their cards, open the camera on your computer and place the drawings in front of the camera lens on the computer for the students to see on the screen. Show each drawing for about 10 seconds to give students time to guess the phrasal verbs and to write them down.

Step 2

Now get your students in groups of 4-5. Give each group about 10-15 drawings and ask them to place them in a pile on the desk face down. They will have to build a collective story using the drawings as prompts. For instance, the first student turns over the top card showing the drawing from the photo above. She will start the story: “Well, the other day, as I was on my way to the bakery to buy a loaf of bread and turned the corner from my building, I ran into a friend that I hadn’t seen for a very long time”. Then the student sitting to her right will continue the story by picking another card: “We said hi and we were very excited to see each other. My friend -Peter was his name- told me that he was going to the supermarket. He had run out of eggs and wanted to cook a Spanish omelette”. And so the story continues.

If at any given point, a student is stuck and can’t manage to continue the story with the drawing depicting the phrasal verb or this student can’t tell what the hidden phrasal verb is, then anyone in the group can take over and continue the story.

Early finishers can switch cards with other groups and weave another story.

This is a very productive activity from many angles. Images help the brain make neural connections, specially so when it is the students themselves who are producing those images. Next, the students will be writing down the target vocabulary repeatedly by means of deciphering what is hidden behind the images they are looking at, which will assist memorization and fixing spelling. Finally, the story building activity under step 2 reinforces use of high order thinking skills. By devising learning scenarios where students have to apply those skills we are facilitating spontaneous use of this vocabulary in the longer term.

Next week I will share with you a way to recycle the generated drawings with a new activity for extra practice and fun. So do not throw these drawings away!

More phrasal verb actitivies: phrasal verbs 2, phrasal verbs 3, phrasal verbs 4.

5 thoughts on “phrasal verbs 1

  1. What a nice way to review phrasal verbs. I can’t wait to put this activity into practice with my students. Thanks for sharing.


  2. Pingback: phrasal verbs 2
  3. Pingback: phrasal verbs 3

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