Can you draw me a verb?

Complex verbs, geometry and abstract thinking? Yes, it is one of my favourite combinations, inspired by Simon  Mumford’s  “The shape of English grammar”, where students drew geometrical images of various  tenses. I decided to use this idea with my beloved phrasal verbs.

When can you use it in class?

I recommend this idea for consolidating and revising phrasal verbs.

Let’s draw, or phrasal verbs on a blackboard and a piece of paper.

● The whole idea is to illustrate the meaning of a phrasal verb using only a few geometric shapes: squares, rectangles, triangles, circles, lines and arrows.

● Draw several examples on the board and ask students to match them with phrasal verbs and  explain why .  Sometimes their ideas may differ  from ours, but their explanations will be very interesting and logical.

● Here are some explanations of verbs from  the photo above:

○ turn into – the square transforms into a triangle, so a change happens

○ get away with – the square did something wrong (circle), but it went unnoticed (in

the second drawing the circle is invisible)

○ run out of – there is a large triangle inside the rectangle, then the triangle becomes smaller only to disappear in the last drawing, showing that we have less of something

○ get on with – three different geometrical figures are close to each other, which points at the idea of ​​good relationships between people

● Students illustrate the verbs chosen by the teacher and the other students try to do the matching. Students explain the meaning of the verbs and interpret each other drawings.

Phrasal verbs uncovered, or more creative ideas.

Here are some suggestions on how we can develop this idea:

● Students illustrate the same verb with different meanings, e.g. break down meaning to  stop working and to be unable to stop yourself crying.

● Students illustrate the same verb, but with different prepositions, e.g. get up to, get on with and get away with.                                                            ● Students illustrate different verbs, but with the same preposition, e.g. set off, take off and turn off.

● Different students illustrate verbs with the same meanings and compare their interpretations.

● Students write sentences or stories where they use drawings instead of verbs and test each other.

● Students work in groups of six; each pair writes their own sentences with drawings instead of verbs and passes them on to another  pair, who rewrites sentences by changing drawings into verbs. Then they give it to the third pair who  change the verbs back into drawings. They give it back to the first pair  – they check if there are any differences between their original  and the final version.

● Students prepare a multiple choice test  with drawings illustrating phrasal verbs as choices and then test each other.

● Students pick drawings illustrating phrasal verbs and either write or say sentences with them.

● You can add other categories to images with verbs, e.g. cards with grammatical structures, with collocations / words that we want to revise and with information whether the sentence is to be affirmative, negative or a question, etc. Students draw one card from each category and form sentences. Instead of having students pick cards, you can stick them to a sheet of paper, number them 1 to 6 and use dice.

● Which is the odd one out? Instead of choosing between verbs, students choose between drawings. Ask them to create a task like this themselves.

● Students pick several drawings and are asked to create a series of logical events s from the first to the last verb.

After these vigorous geometrical and linguistic contortions, phrasal verbs should easily become a permanent fixture of your students’ repertoire!


Author: Ewa Torebko

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