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Illustrating Polysemy: Go on Butterfly! (Lesson Plan)

Updated: Nov 10, 2020

Most phrasal verbs are polysemous, meaning that they have more than one meaning. Let's explore this starting with the very first verb listed in the PHaVe Dictionary of most frequent phrasal verbs: GO ON. This verb has at times been analyzed as having over twenty distinct meanings, including "continue," "start," and "about to become." You can check them out in Garnier & Schmitt's (2015) paper here -

or just read them in the Collin's COBUILD Phrasal Verb Dictionary (3rd Ed., 2012).

Good news though - the meanings may seem completely different and even arbitrary, but they are, in fact, related. And this lesson plan, designed for younger and high beginning level to intermediate students, is intended to highlight the inter-relatedness of these meanings. It uses White's (2012) approach to

1. Explicitly demonstrate the technique of representing concepts (image schemas) through drawings

2. Use context and imagery to explore metaphorical extension

3. Invite students to creatively interpret and draw the meanings of the verb "go on"in context

4. Discuss meaning as a class

And without further ado.....

Lesson Plan: “Go on, Butterfly”

Purpose: To engage students in the discovery of meaning in the phrasal verb go on

Students will be able to identify the core meaning of on and use basic images-schemas (abstract images) to guess the meanings of go on in a story.


  • The story “Go on, Butterfly”

  • Laminated image schemas

  • Additional vocabulary images

  • pencils and erasers

  • Coloring materials - crayons, colored pencils, or markers

  • Whiteboard and wet or dry erase markers, or chalkboard and chalk


  • Write the words GO and ON on the board in separate locations. Ask the students what they mean. Draw examples of their descriptions - a box with an arrow, or a person walking; a table or surface.

  • Now, write the words together, as the phrasal verb go on. Ask the students to come to the board and draw a picture of what go on might mean. Encourage creativity, but finish by labeling the trajector and landmark with concrete labels: Is the surface time and the trajector a mouth? Or the surface is a bus and the trajector is a person?

  • Use pre-made laminated image schemas to identify the possible meanings of on with the students (contact; connection; continuation; support; pressure/responsibility; change; beginning or proceeding to a new event, etc.). Use a wet erase marker to label trajectory and landmarks if needed for clarity.

  • Give students the “Go on, Butterfly” story with space to draw their own illustrations.

  • Read the story, one page at a time, using extra vocabulary images to explain words like “caterpillar” and “parsley.” Ask the students to draw what they think is happening in the story.

  • You might only complete a few pages in one lesson. But afterwards, take those pages, and make a gallery on the wall. In another lesson, have the students look at the pictures and discuss what the verb “go on” means in that section of the story.

  • Have the students write their own story or sentences with the verb go on.

Here's a much nicer printable version:

Go on, Butterfly! Lesson Plan
Download PDF • 82KB

And the story to go with it:

Go On, Butterfly! Illustration Activity
Download • 93KB

And some pre-made image-schemas illustrate the zone of activity/landmark and trajector

image-schemas for ON
Download PDF • 533KB

And a few other images to help the students comprehend the story:

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