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Guest post: Using Wordle to teach Phrasal verbs

We are proud to feature this guest post by Italian ESL teacher Valentina Morgana. A teacher of eight years, Valentina writes the ELT traveler box, a blog about incorporating Web 2.0 tools into your teaching. In this post, Morgana explains how to use Wordle to teach phrasal verbs. She says it´s a fun way of teaching a topic students normally shy away from. And it works. ‘Students like it because they visualise verbs and this helps them to remember. Many of my students use word clouds for revision activities,’ Morgana writes. Follow her on Twitter @vmorgana!

Why Phrasal verbs

Eight years ago, I started teaching English to elementary young learners and, one year later, also to intermediate young learners preparing for the FCE. Although they are very close in terms of age, their approach to learning vocabulary, especially phrasal verbs, is completely different. Younger teenage elementary learners are more curious and enthusiastic towards them, while intermediate students are almost scared.

"I strongly believe that integrating technology into the language classroom is a benefit for both students and teachers," says guest blogger and ESL teacher Valentina Morgana.

I have recently asked to both groups why they simply like or don’t like them and the results showed that the elementary group likes phrasal verbs just because they study them very rarely and when it happens they have the feeling they are using “real” English, while the intermediate group dislike phrasal verbs because there are just too many of them.

Phrasal verbs are very frequent in the English language and often learners at the intermediate level have to deal with a long list of verbs without having seen them before. So I decided to introduce phrasal verbs early in an elementary course, and tried to find a fun way to teach them. Yes, teaching and learning phrasal verbs can be fun!

Why Wordle

I strongly believe that integrating technology into the language classroom is a benefit for both students and teachers. Technology can give immediate feedback; it can provide a large variety of resources for students with different learning styles; if teachers are dealing with large classes, technology can help with individualisation...and it is fun!

An example of a word cloud Morgana uses to teach phrasal verbs.

I’ve considered various webtools for teaching phrasal verbs, but I think Wordle has proved to be the most successful so far. Students like it because they visualise verbs and this helps them to remember. Many of my students use word clouds for revision activities. Wordle is free, and easy to use. It allows you to personalise word clouds (colours, font, layout etc.) and publish them on a website or simply print them out.

Teaching ideas

There are many ways to use Wordle to teach vocabulary. Here are my top three ideas to use Wordle with phrasal verbs:

1. Discover the phrasal verb

Choose a topic and find a group of phrasal verbs related to it (ex. friendship, travel etc.). Create a word cloud with the verbs and distribute it to your students, they can work in pairs or in small groups. Ask them to find out as many phrasal verbs as they can. This is fun because quite often they create “new” verbs, and it could be an interesting discussion prompt. Put correct verbs on a board. Then provide students with some “fill in the gap” sentences you’ve previously prepared and ask them to find the correct verb for each sentence.

2. Guess the question in the cloud

Write down some questions using the phrasal verbs you’ve recently introduced to students. Create a word cloud for each question. Show them one by one on the board, or distribute to students. Give them a time limit to find the question.

3. Mixed up sentences with phrasal verbs

Write down four or five sentences using some phrasal verbs, and find a clue picture for each sentence. Wordle the sentences in a cloud. Students have to find the correct sentences with the help of the pictures.


Some of the ideas mentions above come from a teacher development session given by Janet Bianchini at the Virtual Round Table Conference in 2010.

2 comments (Add your own)

1. Jen wrote:
Very interesting. Excited to try Wordle out!

Mon, June 3, 2013 @ 1:52 AM

2. Mark Macdonald wrote:
Great! Let us know how it goes! And good luck with the move! Have you settled in the Seattle area? It´s a great city! Mark, itslearning

Mon, June 3, 2013 @ 4:04 PM

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