Working with Modal Verbs: ‘Degrees’ of command
Lesson 1 (video-ed)

Dec 30, 2012

0) Before introducing a new ‘group’ of modal verbs we worked with non-grammar topics for a month, so a new ‘group of modals’ was the focus of our third month. To tune students in and to help them see a bigger picture I decided to make a brief summary of modal verbs. So I put down a template on the board asking students to make a summary – what is the function of modal verbs (why do we need them)? What do they help us to express?

Function of modal verbs
Express ... Express ...  Express ...

Students were giving their suggestions and I was putting them down on the board. As a result we got the following summary.

1) Since we have already dealt with the modal verbs of certainty we are now going to work with modal verbs of command. But as usually, we first have to do the entry test. The test showed poor result so we had to work with these modal verbs.

To make it easier for students and to avoid confusion we had when working with previous modal verbs I first offered students to work with three modal verbs only: must, should and have to. The next procedures on building a rule were already familiar to students so it really went very smoothly and students knew what to do. I believe, it proves that the established procedure was clear and worked.


2) First, students were given concept questions and had to answer them. Just as during the first time, I made sure the meaning of the sentences is clear to students.
Here you can find the template offered to students and some results of students work.

3) After that, I asked students to check if they are consistent with what they reply (the step, which I skipped the first time). If ‘yes’ is for the first concept question for the modal verb ‘must’, then it has to be ‘yes’ in every sentence with that modal verb.

4) After that I asked students to tell me which modal verbs we are working on (which ones are there in the concept questions) and I put them down on the blackboard providing a template for the future model/rules.

                      MUST    HAVE TO  SHOULD 

Just as the previous time students were asked to formulate the ENV rule for these modal verbs. We have only started doing it on the lesson and their home task was to finish their rules. 


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# Alexander Sokol 2013-01-03 12:36
I will not comment on those aspects I've already spoken about elsewhere: understanding the need for building a rule, choice of verbs, etc.

You've said several times that you don't see the point behind the sorting tasks. Here are some possible functions for sorting tasks you could have considered:
- a sorting task on seeing different functions of modals
- a sorting task to distinguish between modals as such and periphrastic modals (such as have to, be to, etc.)
- a sorting task to distinguish between modals + verbs referring to the past and present / future
# Renata Jonina 2013-01-03 18:20
Thank you for the functions of sorting. I'll try to explain the reason for me saying it.
The initial place of a sorting task is in Part 2 (before aim formulation), so if i am not mistaken it's initial function is discovering the form, not the meaning. In this case, I'd say discovering 'must' and 'must have done' would go here. That's why I skipped it. If we use sorting for those functions you have indicated then we work already with the meaning. Thus, I am not sure it should come as Part 2. So the teacher has to find the right 'place' for this task.
# Alexander Sokol 2013-01-04 23:37
You're right that some of the functions of sorting I referred to are connected with the meaning. In fact they are also described on the site:
You're also right that Part 2 of the system of grammar tasks is about discovering forms or structures. What is less certain, I think, is what we refer to as a structure when speaking of modals. For example, you offered your learners two systems on modals, or at least parts of the two systems. Some modals were present in both, eg must. In order to formulate the aim well in Part 3, students must realise that this structure has two faces / meanings or can be used for two different purposes. Although formally it's working with the meaning, in the context of a system it's still Part 2 where they discover a new structure. For example, assuming that your learners can use must for expressing probability (It must be Renata, the lesson starts in a minute), doing a sorting where must is also used in a different function would be useful when starting the second system on modals.
Do you see my point?
# Renata Jonina 2013-01-12 16:36
yes, i see your point. Thanks. Since those other functions of the sorting were not mentioned in the system, I assumed there is one of them which is supposed to be used there, which again puts one question - if this is the system one should follow step by step without skipping parts but still adding new things is possible (like with the additional sorting on the meaning).
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