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Demystifying the ‘horrible phrasals’: a closer look
at learner problems and the ways of approaching
teaching multi-word verbs
by Małgorzata Bryndal
- 8

Lesson procedure

1. Warmer:

    • to get SS ready for the lesson,
    • to introduce the theme of work.

Timing: 3 mins

Procedure: T welcomes everybody. T writes a gapped sentence on the board:

The best job in the world is…because…

and elicits some ideas from SS . T asks if SS can guess what the topic of the lesson will be and tries to elicit work from SS.

Stage and aims:

2. Observation phase:

    • to give SS multiple exposures to new lexis through contextualised spoken and written input
    • to get SS to focus on understanding the input
    • to get SS to notice the targeted MWVs

Timing: 15 mins

Procedure: T introduces the task by explaining to the SS that she carried out a mini survey about work-related matters amongst her friends. T shows SS the questions she asked and explains SS will listen to the recorded answers and have to match them with the questions. T sets the task:

  1. SS are put into pairs.
  2. Each SS is given a worksheet with questions.
  3. T plays the CD.
  4. SS listen and match the questions with the speakers.
  5. Peer check.
  6. Second listening (if necessary).
  7. Peer check and teacher check. Short feedback.

T tells the SS to look at the sentences in task 2 on the worksheets and asks them to read the sentences and decide which speaker used them in their answers.

SS do the tasks in pairs. SS listen to check their answers, then feedback through teacher.

3. Hypothesising phase:

    • to refocus SS attention on the targeted MWVs;
    • to highlight form, meaning and use of the targeted MWVs;
    • to highlight the syntactic properties of MWVs (separability).

Timing: 20 mins


1. T refocuses SS’s attention on the phrasal verbs in the answers. SS list the verbs on their handouts and T puts them on the board

fill in
take on
dress up
slack off
look for
get on well with

2. T drills pronunciation (in lexical phrases) and marks the stress for each phrasal verb. Choral and individual drills.

Fill in this form please.

He dressed up for the party.

She has to look for a job.

I can’t slack off at work.

They want to take me on.

I get on well with my boss.

  • T asks SS if they notice anything special about the verbs, elicits that they are made of more than one word, i.e. verb+particle(s) and elicits that they are called phrasal verbs. T asks if the verb and the particle are always close together in the sentence. SS look at ex 2 again and discuss if the parts can be separated. Feedback – SS directed to the explanation box on page 2 of the handout.

4. T focuses SS’s attention on the meaning of the phrasal verbs. SS work in pairs. SS look at the answers in ex. 2 and try to guess the meaning of each phrasal verb. Then match each phrasal verb to the definition given ex. 3. Feedback – comparing with other SS, then check with T.

4. Experimenting phase:

    • to practise noticing MWVs in sentences (meaningful chunking);
    • to provide controlled and freer practice to use MWVs in writing and speaking;
    • to raise SS awareness of possible collocations with the targeted MWVs;
    • to give SS a chance to use MWVs in a more personal context.

Timing: 20 mins


  • SS continue to work in pairs. T asks them to look at the sentences in ex. 4 and try to spot any phrasal verbs in them. Task set as a timed activity. Feedback
  • SS work individually. T asks SS to rewrite the questions in ex.1 using the introduced phrasal verbs. T monitors for mistakes. When SS are ready T puts them in pairs (different partners this time) and asks them to interview the partner with the questions.

SS proceed with the task.

Short feedback.

  • T puts SS in groups and asks them to look at the sentences in ex. 2 to find what phrases/words can be combined with phrasal verbs. Elicits answers. Then directs SS to ex. 6 to note down the collocations and add their own ideas; T elicits some examples first, then leaves the SS to carry on with the task. Monitors for any mistakes. Quick feedback.

4. SS work individually. T asks them to write 3 sentences about themselves using the phrasal verbs and their collocations in them. T monitors for mistakes, makes a note of any persisting errors to deal with in the next class. Quick feedback.

5. Cooler:

    • to finish off the lesson
    • to set homework

Timing: 2 mins

Procedure: T recapitulates the lesson, a few quick drills with picture prompts. Then sets homework.

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