Phrasal verb resource books you’ve used… GO!
Okay, so there was a good one on the bookshelf at LTC called ‘Illustrated Phrasal Verbs’. Me and Sketch used it so often that the student’s book fell apart (only one copy – a conference freebie), then we had to photocopy pages from the teacher’s book and tipex out the answers to make gap-fills. When I think back, the illustrations were sometimes ambiguous, and we were all too often test-teach-testing it. Not always the most effective.
Apart from that, well… There was ‘Test Your Phrasal Verbs’ (so so) and Phrasal Verbs in Use. Although more of a self-study resource, its concise explanations were great for teachers too. All controlled practice though, not a classroom resource really. Well, sparingly.
Here’s a welcome addition to my (admittedly limited) phrasal verb teaching toolkit – Work It Out with Phrasal Verbs, from Prosperity Education. It’s a neat teaching resource (aimed at B2-C1 level students) written by Billie Jago and Monica Ruda-Peachey.
*Get on with it, Pete…* Overview
The resource is aimed at both new and experienced teachers, and focuses on presenting and practising phrasal verbs in clear topic-based contexts (see promo here). Advice, Family, Holidays, Crime, Business, etc… the same approach taken by McCarthy and O’Dell in Phrasal Verbs in Use, only this is a comprehensive teaching resource rather than a self-study book. At just under 100 pages, you might question my use of ‘comprehensive’, but you know how it is these days; the book is mainly the teacher notes, but it’s accompanied by downloadable worksheets, presentations, supps, etc. The book as a package has a lot to it, that’s for sure.
The intro is brief. It explains that the resource aims to introduce phrasal verbs in contexts that tie in with those found in standard coursebooks (so it’s a good supp in itself). Next up there’s a rules overview of phrasal verbs, followed by 10 ‘Work outs’ – i.e. topic-based lessons with downloadable resources. The work outs include detailed procedural information, estimated timing, suggestions for alternative activities if tech is available, extension tasks for fast finishers, and more.
What I like about it
The activities/tasks across lessons are really varied, yet the workout formats are similar (intro questions, then roughly PPP). This is a good balance for me – there’s familiarity for the learners but clever tweaks to make things seem fresh. The authors mention that this could be a supp, or the lessons could be delivered sequentially. With the latter approach in mind, the range of activities is well-considered.
The contexts are clear and as a result the target language rarely feels contrived. The authors are right – the contexts may be general enough to work alongside other coursebook resources.
Speaking of contexts, the authors chose to use text-based presentations for some of these. They’ve been clever in the way they’ve done this to avoid target language trapping. The only exception might be the business-related lesson, where the amount of phrasal verbs used adds a feel of informality.
The digital alternatives are a nice addition and of course that’s timely from the authors/publisher. The additional resources have been thought through to make the book work for online/face-to-face learning.
The worksheets accompanying the work outs are often self-explanatory, meaning a teacher could build their own lesson around the content quite easily. I like how the usability (word?!) of the worksheets hasn’t been compromised to suit a prescribed lesson. Nice.
Teacher voice. I do love it when a resource sounds like it’s written by teachers. Procedures are a dead giveaway for this, as real teachers love adding ‘stick something on the students’ activities. Seriously, look:
The extra practice activities are very useful. Again, they’re varied, and the preempt the need for more practice – this is difficult language and the more practice/contextual examples the better! The addition of role plays for some lessons to try and prompt some freer use of that target language is great.
There have also been some good design decisions made. The structure and layout is clear and well signposted, and small choices like the use of vector images means the resource won’t date quickly! I hate those stock images which expose the age of a resource… well avoided.
Things that could improve
With all the resources and the clear procedural info, teachers are well-supported. However, less-experienced teachers would benefit from a more detailed overview of phrasal verb ‘rules’. The rules provided are too general and more clarity is needed regarding metalanguage. The first four units of McCarthy/O’Dell (Phrasal Verbs in Use) are a great primer for the rest of their content – I think more orientation could be added to this resource before the work outs.
The result of that lack of clarity is the occasional slip language-wise. While McCarthy/O’Dell distinguish between phrasal verbs and phrasal adjectives, highlighting how they are related, this resource doesn’t. You find the occasional example, such as in the extra practice resources, where the target language is in the wrong form:
You shouldn’t eat gone off food
Very occasionally, the resources need more scaffolding/support. Despite the level, tasks can be cognitively demanding in places (if you get a copy, see Work Out 4, Ex 1 for an example). In Work Out 8, there are 17 business idioms introduced in one lesson – pretty brutal! And as I said, that might not fit the level of formality needed.
Apart from the rules bit, I’d say minor stuff really.
This book could work well as both a supplementary and standalone resource. The work outs are well staged, detailed, full of variety, and provide a good level of challenge for students at this level. The lessons themselves aren’t short of teacher support, although some tweaks could be made to help teachers enhance their subject knowledge (more detail on phrasal verb rules, pronunciation guidance). However, the beauty of an ebook is that this can be done straight away, so my points probably won’t age well.
£19.99… That’s two quid a lesson. Considering the whole package I’d say that’s fair enough as a resource for the whole staffroom.