Benjamin White's Teaching Model

Benjamin White (2012) proposed a new cognitive approach for teaching phrasal verbs. His lesson plan looks something like this:

  1. Reorient students to phrasal verbs

Start by demonstrating how to conceptualize phrasal verbs through sketches/image-schemas. Show how the core spatial meaning of the verbs can be extended to abstract or figurative meanings.


2. Go phrasal verb hunting


Outside of class, have the students go on a "hunt" for phrasal verbs. Have them bring in both the sentence with the phrasal verb and one or two sentences surrounding it so that the context can be fully understood. With older students, have them practice gathering the citation as well. This will help them in future academic contexts.


3. Discuss meaning


From the pool of phrasal verbs that the students gathered, choose a few verbs and create an "exploration worksheet." In class, have the students gather in small groups to try to make sense of the verbs on the worksheet. They might explore context, what the zone of activity might be, or the landmarks and trajectors, and metaphorical extensions. Afterwards, the class discusses their findings, and the teacher shares the true meanings of the verbs on the worksheet.


4. Draw meaning


Give the students a new set of phrasal verbs and have them sketch what they think each verb means, using a landmark and trajector or zone of activity. This should allow students to connect the spatial sense to the idiomatic meaning, as well as allowing for creativity.


5. Discuss


Have the students share their drawings and explain why they drew what they did. The goal here is not to perfectly understand the meaning of each verb, but to demonstrate the ability to conceptualize the verb and particle, and to apply the core spatial meaning to a more abstract context.


Here are some examples of student drawings:



I LOVE this idea of White's - to give students the opportunity to explore meaning with their own tools and creativity. It draws upon all kinds of research on motivation and internalization of concepts - plus, it's fun! This idea is based so much on visuals and exploration, that I really think it could be adapted to different kinds of classrooms - the ESL classroom in an elementary or middle school, or lower level adult students in a community college.


And that's what I'm going to do in my next post - here it comes, lesson plan number ONE for this blog!

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