This activity puts a spin on a familiar classroom game: chain stories. It’s best to do it in writing so that the final product(s) can be reviewed. One option is to work as a class, having each student make a one or two-line contribution with the teacher acting as the scribe at the board. A more interesting and perhaps more beneficial approach is to have several stories being formed at once on paper. More stories mean more contexts in which to study the given phrasal verbs. I will use this second option to illustrate the activity.
Objective: To increase awareness of object placement with transitive phrasal verbs
Level: Intermediate to advanced
STEP 1 – Select 6-8 transitive phrasal verbs and list them on the board. Include both separable and inseparable phrasal verbs. Be sure students have access to a phrasal verb reference chart to confirm definitions and whether a given verb is separable or inseparable. You can cue them by listing the phrasal verbs with objects in correct positions. Model:
Ask someone over
Go along with something/ someone
Hang something up
Look forward to something
Point something out
Show something off
Talk someone into something (or doing something)
Think something over
Wake someone up
STEP 2 – Next to the list of phrasal verbs, write 8-10 possible objects. You can ask students to volunteer ideas. Try to include some unusual choices to make the activity interesting. You should also include one or two pronouns and at least one very long object that will force students to make a decision regarding the best position of the object in a separable phrasal verb. Model:
a really cool-looking sports car
a late night party
big scary dogs
an idea which at any other time would sound crazy
STEP 3 – Ask students to work in pairs. Give each pair a blank sheet of paper. They must choose one phrasal verb and one object from the list to begin a short story. Once they write their first line, they pass their paper to the pair on the left. Students will continue the story they’ve just received by using a different phrasal verb and a different object from the lists. Sometimes an additional sentence will be necessary to transition from one idea to the next. This second sentence doesn’t have to contain a phrasal verb. End the activity when each story has five or six phrasal verbs.
STEP 4 – Collect all the stories. Read each one aloud to the class. As you read each line aloud, allow for feedback and corrections.
Jim was taking a nap. His brother, Matt, woke him up.
Jim and Matt had plans. Their friend Pete had asked them over.
Jim and Matt were looking forward to a late night party at Pete’s house.
Pete wanted to show off a really cool-looking sports car which his parents bought for him.
When the brothers got to Pete’s house, Jim pointed out a problem – big scary dogs.
Pete spoke sweetly and talked them into leaving Pete’s front door. Now they could go in and have fun!