Phrasal Verb Review Game For Upper-Intermediate Or Advanced Level

I recently got a request for a game or activity to practice phrasal verbs for upper-intermediate or advanced level. My contribution is below and I’d encourage my readers to chip in with any additional ideas or suggestions as well via comments.

I have to admit that I find it more of a challenge to innovate games for higher levels. The subject matter just tends to involve finer shades of meaning or grammar points which don’t always lend themselves to the fast and interactive pace that many of us – students and teachers alike – associate with games.

First and “funnest”: charades or pictionary. You have to chose the verbs carefully though to ensure that they are both draw-able (act-able), and also that they are similar enough, or there are enough of them, that it will actually take some drawing (acting) before people can guess correctly. It is also often necessary to outlaw literal drawings or gestures, ie “look up” a pair of eyes and an arrow pointing up.

Another alternative which has a slower pace but provides more thorough review as well as genuine competition and strategy: four (or five) in a row.

You choose sixteen (or twenty-five) phrasal verbs to review – ones your students know, of course, and not new ones. You write the numbers one through sixteen (twenty-five) in a square grid, and on a separate paper that you keep for yourself, associate each number with a phrasal verb. In teams students try to win four in a row, like tic tac toe, by getting the phrasal verb behind it “right”. So – they don’t know which verb they get when they chose a number, not the first time around anyway.

Group A goes first and choses, for example, square 6, which they learn is “pick up”. How do they get it “right”? They have 30 seconds (stick to this) to come up with either a sentence that shows they know the meaning (at least one of them) or a definition. It is somewhat objective because you have to decide if the sentence is okay or not, but the burden is on them to come up with a good sentence. If they get it wrong, or take too long, don’t give the correct answer; another group can have a try by chosing square 6 on their next turn.

The game can stop when one group succeeds in getting four in a row, but, especially if some group gave a wrong answer and no one returned to get it right, make sure to clarify those. It can be time consuming to go through all of them, but if there is time, the point is, after all, to revise the verbs, so you could elicit example sentences from students. Or have a bonus round where winning one verb/square is worth one point, etc.

Another alternative would be to have a sentence for each number and just the particle is missing, and they have to come __ with it. This is probably a lot more work for you, and in my opinion does not really test their knowledge of the verbs in question as the first way does. In class though it will probably take up much less time, and if they write down the example sentences (or you print them up with the particles to be filled in at home), this can be useful additional practice as well.