Using phrasal verb stories



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Using phrasal verb stories

The story presents the phrasal verbs in a clear context, helping to clarify the meaning. The funny stories are memorable. Not only do learners tend to remember the phrasal verbs, but they usually remember the whole sentence in which it occurred in the story. That is, they remember a good clear example of its usage. This is extremely helpful in allowing them to use the phrasal verb, not just recognise it.

How to use the stories

 To tell the story, no photocopying or any other material is required

1.       Teacher tells the story, students make a note of verbs  + meaning ,which the teacher 

          explains as they go along. (15 to 20minutes). No materials needed.

2.    Students retell the story in pairs. They now have a list of the verbs in the same order


        as in the story.  (5 or 6 minutes). No materials needed. 

For stages 3, 4 and 5, one double sided photocopy between 2 students is enough.


They do the whole activity orally. The teacher then takes back the photocopies to
reuse in the next lesson/future.

3.     Students test each other by matching phrasal verb to definition


4.     Gapped exercise (sentences) done in pairs, orally (5 minutes). DO not let them
        write anything in the gaps. This way, you can reuse the sheets over and over again.
        WARNING! Learners will take one look at the gaps and  just assume they have to
        fill them in. To be fair, this is what they have to do 99% of the time when faced with
        "gaps" so it is understandable that when you start explaining what to do, some
        don´t listen because they assume they know what to do i.e fill in the gaps! They
         soon learn though.
5.    Semi-controlled oral activity 1 (Question and answer) using the phrasal verbs (5 minutes)

Some of the sheets have Sentence transformations. This can initially also be done in pairs orally in class. If your students need this type of practice for the Cambridge First Certificate exam, this can be photocopied one per student. (Homework?)


How to tell the story

Tell the students that you going to tell them a short story containing various phrasal verbs which they are to make a note of as they crop up. As you tell the story highlight the verbs in question and concept check to make sure the meaning is clear. The students must make a note of the meaning as well as the phrasal verb.


For example:      The story as it might appear in the book.

Uncle Bob was getting over a serious operation. I get on well with Uncle Bob so I decided to visit him in hospital. I got on the bus outside my house and got off at the hospital. ........ 

What the teacher actually says...

“Uncle Bob was getting over a serious operation. He was getting over a serious operation (repetition to emphasise the verb) What does that mean? (asking the students) Anyone? Yes, Maria, yes, he was recovering from an operation. Uncle Bob was getting over a serious operation. I get on well with Uncle Bob. (I tend to slow down when saying the verb, to give emphasis and thus make it clear what the target language is) What does it mean I get on well with him? Yes, I have a good relationship with him. So I got on the bus. (I pause) a student says, “you enter the bus”? Good, yes, but we don’t enter a bus, or a train, we always... (Students reply)“get on” Good. And at the hospital I ... (The pause prompts a student to guess “get off””) Good, I got off the bus.  (I now quickly review, to keep the students on their toes) So, in the hospital Uncle Bob was _____ a serious operation. (Students reply “getting over”) Good, and I have a god relationship with Uncle Bob, I ____ (Students “get on well”). So I ______ (Students “got on the bus”) ...etc.”

The story telling process has certain important techniques.


  1. Repetition to emphasis the target language.
  2. Constant reviewing. A typical story contains ten phrasal verbs. After four or five, review quickly. Some students will need to consult their notebooks of course, but some will immediately remember the verb. By the end of the story, and a few reviews, the students are already beginning to remember the phrasal verbs quite well.


2.    Retelling the story

The next stage is for the students to retell the story. This is not as difficult as it might seem. Now, the students have a list in their notebooks of al the phrasal verbs, and their meanings, in the same order in which they occurred in the story. Explain that you do not expect them to be able to remember all the details of the story. All they have to do is put the verbs into sentences. In fact, most students will be able to recreate the whole story more or less

3. Students in pairs match phrasal verb to definition.

This is done orally. One student says the definition, and their partner has to give the phrasal verb. Then change partner and repeat stage 3, but this time their partner has to make a sentence with the phrasal verb. It is okay if the sentence is the same as that in the story since the examples in the story as designed to be very typical (i.e high frequency) examples.



4.    Gapped sentences .  Matching the phrasal verb to the sentence.

In pairs, orally, students match the phrasal verbs to the sentences. They do not write anything so that the exercise can be used again.




Dominic Streames efltheatreclub.co.uk © 2011


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