Simple Idiom/Phrasal Verb Speaking Activity

ESL Role-play Activity for Practicing Phrasal Verbs or Idioms

Basic Idea: Have students create a role-play using recently taught idioms or phrasal verbs.

Total Time: 15 minutes (depends on the number of groups)

Strengths:  entertaining + allows students to use their creativity + reinforces language

Levels: Intermediate, Upper-Intermediate, Advanced

The bulk of idioms and phrasal verbs are generally used in spoken English. Therefore, role-playing is perfect for practice.

Basic Speaking Activity

  1. After teaching your students 8-12 idioms or phrasal verbs (for a print-out of useful idioms, see here), put your students into pairs.
  2. Tell them you're going to give them 5 minutes to create a conversation dialogue with their partner using as many of the idioms/phrasal verbs as possible. (You can say "the group who uses the most/all the expressions wins" if you want to motivate them, but this probably won't be necessary).
  3. Tell them to try to make their role-play about 2 minutes or longer, if they can.
  4. Let them do it. Listen while they plan it and offer help where possible.
  5. Have each group present their role-play.

This activity is simple but effective. Students enjoy using their creativity. The role-plays my students create are usually pretty entertaining. Give it a shot and be sure to commend your students on their role-plays and review major mistakes after they have finished.

- Matthew Barton / English Current

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8 comments on “Simple Idiom/Phrasal Verb Speaking Activity

  1. estella (Posted on 11-26-2011 at 14:52) Reply

    Thanks alot for your creation.If you have another creation Please share us!!!!!!!We love you all!

  2. Jenny (Posted on 3-14-2012 at 07:04) Reply

    Thanks so much for saving me so much time and research!

  3. Deanimator (Posted on 5-13-2013 at 16:59) Reply

    Typo: In “Execution…1) “…studentes…”?

    1. mb (Posted on 5-13-2013 at 19:30) Reply


  4. Pinar (Posted on 1-27-2014 at 16:15) Reply

    Thanks a lot for the hard work!

  5. Tammy (Posted on 10-10-2016 at 14:41) Reply


    What a fun lesson! You certainly are a talented instructor. I am just beginning to teach conversational English after teaching English Composition for sixteen years in the college classroom. I wasn’t sure where to begin. You have given me great ideas and invaluable information.

    Thank you so much!

  6. Neena Sharma (Posted on 12-7-2016 at 19:04) Reply

    Yours is a good way of teaching and helping students to memorise the idioms.I am also a trainer for Soft skills at one of the Engineering college in India.I used another way of teaching Idioms and it really worked well.I assigned 1 idiom to a group of 4 to 5 students and asked them to create a Mime act using it and the other students had to guess which idiom was used in that Role play.It was quite a fun and learn session.Try it out with your students.It works!!

  7. Gisela (Posted on 4-9-2017 at 21:11) Reply

    Very useful, thank you!!

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