Putting Together a Narrative: An activity for phrasal verbs

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


                a problem

                big scary dogs




                an idea which at any other time would sound crazy

                the question


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.

Possible story:

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!


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Cristina says:

    It’s a very good thing I’ve found this blog; it is full of good ideas to use in the classroom . I hope you don’t mind me using them in the classroom and spreading the word about your ideas, always mentioning your blog.
    I very much like this activity using phrasal verbs . Thanks !

    1. englishwithjennifer says:

      Hello Cristina! I could only be pleased if a teacher accepts my ideas and shares them with others. Please do tell other teachers about my collection of activities. I’ve been trying to offer even more lately by providing printable handouts. If you try out an activity, I’d love some feedback. Let me know what works and what can be improved. Maybe you’ll put your own spin on an activity. Enjoy and happy teaching!

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