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Teaching Activities for Making a Request With Phrasal Verbs for ESL

by Nadine Smith, studioD

Native English speakers use phrasal verbs constantly, including in the interrogative form, so teaching them to English-as-second-language learners is essential. A phrasal verb comprises a verb and a preposition that denote an idiomatic expression. For example, the phrasal verb "play around" means not to literally "play" "in the vicinity of" a physical object but to experiment or tinker. Making a request with a phrasal verb involves beginning the sentence with "May (or can) I (or we, you, he, or she)" and then adding the phrasal verb and possibly the rest of the sentence: "Can I play around with your drums?" ESL teachers should aim for activities that involve students using phrasal verbs in exercises that simulate real-life contexts.

Hand out a worksheet that contains a conversation with phrasal verb requests blanked out. Either by themselves or in pairs, students fill in the blanks using a phrasal verb list and a dictionary to help them.

Create note cards for each student in the class. On half of the cards, write phrasal verb requests, such as, "Can you look up a word in the dictionary for me?" On the other half of the cards, write a matching response, such as, "Yes, I can look up a word in the dictionary for you." Each student goes around the room with her card asking the other students her question until she finds the matching one.

Cut out magazine pictures of scenes with people, such as office workers or a family in a kitchen, for example. Give one picture to each pair of students, and instruct them to imagine and write down a conversation based on the scene in front of them, using requests with phrasal verbs.

Distribute a blank one-week calendar or agenda to each student, telling them the goal of the game is to schedule as many activities as they can for the week. Instruct students to go around the class and request other students to help them with their activities using phrasal verbs, such as, "Can you help me rake up my leaves on Thursday at 1 p.m.?" Students can sign up for a maximum of two activities per agenda. The student who has scheduled the most activities involving phrasal verbs within the allotted time wins.

Assign groups of students a customer service scenario, and instruct them to write a script using phrasal verb requests and then act it out in front of the class. For example, one group of students could role play checking in to a hotel. The students pretending to be the guests make requests such as, "Can I please check out later tomorrow?" The hotel clerk could ask questions like, "Would you like to sign up for a wake-up call?" Other scenarios could include ordering at a restaurant, shopping at a bakery, asking for directions, or signing up for or cancelling a cell phone plan.

Items you will need
  •  Phrasal verb worksheet
  •  Dictionaries
  •  Note cards
  •  Magazine pictures
  •  Blank one-week calendar for each student

About the Author

Nadine Smith has been writing since 2010. She teaches college writing and ESL courses and has several years experience tutoring all ages in English, ESL and literature. Nadine holds a Master of Arts in English language and literature from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, where she led seminars as a teaching assistant.

Photo Credits

  • Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Getty Images