Date :  February 13, 2013       Form 8               Age 15

Grammar lesson

Language aim – Conditionals

Thinking aim – ENV model for describing features of sentences with conditional clauses (Conditionals).

Before the lesson.

Background. We dealt with the theme last year, speaking about 1 and 2 conditionals fragmentarily not systematically. The theme is taken after working with Modal Verb structures where the notions of simple and perfect infinitives were discussed.

The students were supposed to work with banks – to find conditionals, to group them and to come up with a list of features of conditional clauses. 

Taking into account my unsuccessful work with banks for Future and Modal verbs, I decided to change the approach a little.

Problems with previous banks – Students used Grammar sites/books, though were told not to; – Students often choose ‘wrong’ forms e.g. Present Continuous form for speaking about present not future, so it requires time to check the bank which I didn’t do and so the students had a lot of troubles in working with the bank and come up with conclusions. – Students wrote  out too short examples with not enough context to make any conclusions – Students chose examples too randomly often with too difficult context for them to understand and analyse

These problems might have appeared because I came from a guided bank collection (last year, Form 7) when I gave them texts from which they chose examples  to a too free bank collection ( too big  challenge) without enough instruction, discussion, development the skill of choosing the sentences.

So I changed the approach little bit this time.   Change 1 – we worked with the banks in class not at home, so that I can see the way they work and monitor it.

Change 2 -  I prepared texts for banks myself, but I chose pretty long pieces so that they had enough freedom and enough material to choose from. I prepared 3 different texts (John R.R.Tolkien: The Hobbit, Chapter 1; Fellowship of the Ring Chapter 1; The return of the King, Chapter 1) and divided the students into 3 groups – so that they still had different input.

The lesson

1. When I was choosing the texts I read them through and understood that in the texts there were a lot of examples of ‘if’ in indirect speech sentences, so it could confuse the students, you, of course, can work with all cases of – ‘if-sentences’, but I thought it would be too difficult for 8 formers, too challenging, though, it could be too challenging for me not for them,  So I had to decide how to deal with this difficulty, I could ‘edit’ the text by deleting or simplifying the sentences, which I didn’t want to do.   So, I chose another way,  before offering them to work with the texts I made an introductory step. We discussed what “condition” and ’conditionals’ are: sentences which consist of two parts, a condition and a consequence, or ,as some other students put it, a reason and a result. Then I gave them an example from the text with  “ I wonder if ….” to show them that not all “ if’  sentences are conditionals.

2. The students got a text in an electronic form ( I sent them all by e-register e-mail) and they had to find 3 examples of conditional sentences. Now I think that the number of sentences could be more, but I still can’t find the optimal number of examples for the students to work with so that they are enough to find some regularities and not too many not to get lost in numerous examples.

3. The students worked for 10 minutes.

4. I asked them to stop and collect ideas they had got. My question was “What have you noticed about conditional sentences?” Here is the list of things they mentioned.

       - ‘if’ can be like a condition at the end of the sentence or at the beginning of the sentence

      - sometimes there is a comma in the sentence - sometimes it has a modal verb – would/should/will/may/could/can

      -  it has a certain structure   if ______ V …., _______ V…     

5.  Then I somehow pushed them to pay attention to the verb forms in these sentences.  They came up with the following:

Speaking about verb forms –

- they are different in time in one sentence

- conditionals can be about general time; present, future, past

6. Another question, which I think was important was about what we should learn about the Conditionals so that they focused on the ‘grammatical’ features of Conditionals – parameters Time and Probability. So I asked “ What do you think we should study? What should be the aim of our studies?” Here come their answers:


1. to understand what tense forms to use

2. to understand when to put commas

3. when to use what Modal verb

The priority:

- to find out the verb forms

- to understand what verb forms are used in one sentence

The answer was unexpected for me. I had thought and I had planned that we would be working on sorting to different Conditionals_ Conditional 1, 2, etc – a very stereotypic approach. Their suggestion was to investigate the verb forms/structures inside one sentence. For them it was very unusual that in one sentence there were two different verb structures e.g. V1(present simple) and WILL V ( future simple). At first I was stuck, but then I understood that this was a very logical way.

7. So here is a list of structures they found:

• if + subject  + V1…., V

• if + subject + V1 …     subject  + V1

• If + subject +V1    subject + will V

• if + subject +had V3,   subject might have V3 

• subject + would V, if + subject  + V2 

 A structure which again was unexpected for me, at least the one I usually don’t work with was the sentences where the second part of the conditional was imperative (the first structure above).

8. Here went the bell, so it was the end of this part of our work with conditionals. The home task was to find at least one example for every sentence structure and if possible to find examples of other structures.


# Alexander Sokol 2013-02-21 15:37
Irina, many thanks for the description. I really like it as it is easy for me to imagine how the lesson unfolded.
There are several aspects I wanted to discuss.

The first one is about banks. I feel that the problem you've described (bringing examples from grammar books, writing out short sentences, etc.) can be quite typical when colleagues start working with banks. So, it might be useful to prepare some recommendations on banks or even write a paper. What would you say?

Another aspect is aim setting in grammar. If you are saying that your aim for that lesson was a model. We both know, however, that a model is very unlikely to appear so quickly when working from the students. You didn't manage to come to it even despite occasional 'pushing' on the way. So, I am thinking about making a kind of sequence of typical aims. For example, in the context of your theme, several come to mind: ENV description of conditional (distinguishing between what it is and what it is not through establishing various features), defining areas for learning and prioritising within them (you did this but you didn't really describe much how, could be interesting), choosing sources for reaching aims (you gave them complete freedom again in finding examples, didn't you?), etc. The list can go on but I think that the idea is clear.

'Unexpected' things also sound interesting. I believe it'd be useful to collect these cases of the absence of correspondence between 'logical to the teacher' and 'logical to the student'. I am sure you will be able to make a draft if you think about about the previous times when you were surprised.

For other people reading this, the way 'structures' are described can be discussed. I realise that there is a certain way of you doing it with your students but perhaps some additional explanations and reasons for choosing this or that aspect could be useful.

Well, probably enough for the first comment on the first post :)
# Susan Granlund 2013-02-22 11:15
Hello Irina!
I really enjoyed reading this post as it helped me to see clearly how you worked with conditionals and made use of banks. The idea of using banks sounds very clear and logical to me, but I haven't yet done it properly. Mostly I've just had sentences as examples, but I can see that a text would be better because it's in context, if it's not to difficult. It would,as Alexander suggested, be useful to know about possible problems with banks - it might help in choosing relevant and suitable ones for different ones for different age groups and purposes. Thanks for this!
# Irina Buchinska 2013-03-03 15:12
Thanks Susan and Alexander for your comments.

I have understood your request about the grammar banks and how to work with them, I will think, summarise and write about it, fine.

Re- Another aspect is aim setting in grammar.

I see here at least two aspects - aim setting in grammar as the teacher sees them, and the procedures how to organise work in class so that students put these aims or, as I put it now, steps of working with grammar. I think that this is a kind of the 3rd step of the TTF, when students build an algotythm of working with a system of tasks, no? I have never done this before, I worked with individual aims for a lesson, and now I have come to the idea of working out aims and steps of work for several lessons by students. I believe we can expect this from them after working on building models for several years. And I think it is true not only for Conditionals but for any grammar theme.

In terms of the above, my aim of building a model for Conditionals is a long-term aim, you, Alexander, is right, it is not for one lesson.

In fact, I plan to describe a series of lessons in a row on this particular theme. And then I could summarise some points. With the help of your comments. :)
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