Making students even remotely enthusiastic about learning and using phrasal verbs has been one of my biggest challenges as a teacher. These 5 games have proved to be effective as far as consolidating and revising my students’ knowledge of phrasal verbs and encouraging their use. I have been using these games with upper-intermediate and advanced learners, especially those preparing for their FCE and CAE exams.
Note for teachers: When choosing phrasal verbs you want your students to learn or revise, I would strongly encourage you to stay away from alphabetically organised lists featuring all the verbs with look or up. If possible, try to introduce your students to sets of phrasal verbs organised by topic or taken from an actual reading / listening activity where they were used in a meaningful context.
1. Word Sneak
This game is inspired by the segment on Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show. You might show your students the clip before you play so that they can understand the game better.
- Prepare two lists of phrasal verbs you want your students to revise; make them 5-7 items long;
- Divide students into pairs;
- Give each student their list, students should get different lists of phrasal verbs;
- Their task is to have a conversation in which they need to casually use (“sneak in”) phrasal verbs from their lists. As they carry on, they might cross out the verbs they have used. Set the timer for 5 minutes.
- The person who manages to sneak in the most words in the set amount of time wins.
This is a variation on the popular game of Scattegories.
- Prepare the list of phrasal verbs you want your students to revise;
- Assign a category to each phrasal verb; e.g. if you want them to revise the meaning of TAKE UP the category might be “3 things you take up to lose weight” or “3 reasons to take up a hobby”;
- Prepare a set of separate cards for each category;
- Students play in pairs or groups;
- Distribute one category card per group and give your students 2 minutes to fill it in;
- Check their answers, for each unique answer students get 10 points, for each repeated answer they get 5;
- Whoever ends up with the most points, wins.
Example of a categories table to be cut up later: PHRASAL VERBS SCATTEGORIES
3. Call my bluff
Yet another idea inspired by a game show.
- Students play in pairs or groups;
- Each group chooses 4 phrasal verbs from the set you want them to revise;
- Students write down 3 definitions for each phrasal verb, one true and two false (trying to make it as difficult as possible to differentiate between them);
- 2 groups/pairs play against each other, presenting definitions for their phrasal verbs;
- To get a point, opponents need to choose the correct definition and use the phrasal verb in a sentence to the satisfaction of the team they are playing against.
4. Dice game
- Students play in pairs or groups, each group needs a dice;
- Assign a preposition or a verb to each number on the dice (if TAKE UP is one of the verbs in the set you want to revise, you might choose either TAKE or UP to assign to a number on the dice)
- Students roll the dice and need to come up with a phrasal verb containing the word which the number they rolled is assigned to. They also need to use it in a sentence. If the group accepts their sentence, they get a point.
5. Connect 4
I wrote more about this game here.
- Students play in pairs;
- Their task is to fill in the gaps with prepositions/verbs and connect 4 adjacent squares (horizontally, vertically, diagonally);
- Whoever does it first, wins.