I wish I’d never been born! – Conditionals / Hypothetical language

After you’ve taught the same lesson a bazillion times, you do tend to get a little bored of it and it falls into the  forgotten depths of your USB or sits crumpled in a plastic wallet at the back of your locker. The great thing is when you come across one of these lessons after a year or so and remember why you loved it in the first place. This lesson uses a silly little story I wrote years ago and have recently resurrected.

This lesson came about as a result of my frustration with how conditionals were taught in coursebooks. In general, they were taught as if they were rigid structures and that every conditional sentence fit into these strict frames. As we all know, this is not the case.

The reality is that a conditional sentence is just a sentence made up of two clauses, if students understand the language to make up each clause, they’ll be able to create their own sentences without worrying about 1st, 2nd or 3rd.

That’s the idea anyway…

Level: Intermediate and above (possibly a strong pre-int group too)

Time: 2 – 3 hours

Materials:

  1. Tony’s story
  2. Language focus 2 – answers
  3. conditional questions

Procedure:

(1) 

Intro / Pre-reading:

In the past I’ve used Harry Enfield’s Kevin character as the intro picture for this lesson but any stroppy teenager will do really. I usually display the picture and get the students to talk about how he’s feeling and why he might be feeling this way. Naturally, words like “stroppy”, “moody”, “teenage angst” , etc will come up at this point.

(2) 

Gist reading:

Any gist-reading question will do here. I like to ask them what kind of relationship the characters have and who they sympathise with in this story.

This is nice as it usually starts a little discussion and gives them the opportunity to use some of the vocab from the first section. It also gets them engaging with the story a little, and not just a simple true/false question.

(3) 

Language focus 1:

I like to keep my students on their toes and I like to constantly review and practise language points from previous lessons which is why I tend to use this as a quick revision of narrative tenses. Students discuss the first paragraph and decide what tense to use in each case. Feel free to ignore this and put the correct tenses in yourself if you don’t want to focus on this at all.

(4) 

Vocabulary Focus:

Direct the students to the vocabulary section below the story. They must match the definitions/synonyms to words and phrases in the story.

(5)

Language Focus 2:

This is where the real fun begins. The guiding questions on the second page are designed to break down a typical hypothetical conditional into 2 language points:

1- hypothetical language (e.g. wish/if/if only + past perfect for speaking hypothetically about the past)

2- Hypothetical modals (e.g. would have done / would do / might do)

Students should work through these 3 stages in small groups, using the story to guide them. One of the benefits of this is it encourages them to think critically about language in texts and to helps them to analyse language.

I would probably stop after each of the three sections and discuss it as a class. You can find the answers in the materials section above.

(6) 

Possible follow-up exercises:

There are a few ways you could follow this up. I’ve added a few below.

  1. Pull out the modal sentences and focus on the pronunciation. These are all spoken in the story but the way it’s written, there are no contractions. For example, “you should have told me” would probably be pronounced: /jəʃədətəʊldmiː/ or something similar.
  2. Print out some nice conditional questions that might give students the opportunity to explore the language from the text. I’ve attached a few questions in the materials section above. I usually chop them up and put them face down in the middle of a circle of students. One student picks one up and reads it aloud. The other students can’t see the paper but can ask them to repeat or speak up etc. It becomes a nice pronunciation and listening exercise as well. and the teacher can sit back and write down any nice conditional sentences or any errors for examination later on.
  3. Discussion on teenagers / youths and how they are treated in different countries.

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