Monday, March 14, 2016

A complete lesson plan to teach the second conditional

I used the classic example "What would you take to a desert island?" to introduce the second conditional (or Type 2 conditional as some would call it). I wrote the question on the board (What would you take with you if you were trapped on a desert island?) and gave out this worksheet. Looking at the photo in the worksheet, learners are supposed to write items that they would possibly take to a desert island.

I was worried that they wouldn't understand the question because this was the first time they had ever seen the second conditional. However, they focused on thinking about items to take to the island, and not on the grammatical structure, which made everything easier. :)

I asked them to work in pairs and gave them a few minutes to complete the task. When the time was up, I wrote "If I were trapped on a desert island, I would take __________." on the board as an example for the students. Then, I asked the question to some of them, and they were able to answer it without any difficulty. After doing this dialogue with 5-6 students, I asked some concept check questions to convey the meaning. I used the following questions: (You have these on the second page of the worksheet I shared above.)
  • Are we talking about the past, present or future? (Future or present)
  • Is this a real or imagined situation? (Imagined) You can also specify this and ask: Am I trapped on a desert island? (No)
  • How probable is the if-clause? (Improbable)
I told them that these sentences are conditionals and we call this type of sentences the second conditional. Then I wrote on the board: 
We use the second conditional to talk about u________ or i_______ things. (unreal or impossible)
It didn't occur to me in the lesson, but it might also be a good idea to introduce the word hypothetical at this point. 

After making sure that the concept was clear, I asked a few questions to help them discover the rule:

What tense do you see in the if-clause? (past simple)
What tense do you see in the the main clause? (would + (bare) infinitive)

Remember to point out that "were" is the grammatically correct form of "to be" with all the subjects although "was" is also used in informal contexts. 

Also point out that although we use the simple past, we're talking about present situations. 

When you think they are ready to do some practice, you can start with this worksheet. It helps learners to practice the structure. After that, use this to focus more on meaning. 

Finally, you can do this activity in which learners answer some interesting questions using the second conditional. I printed out each sentence on a different sheet of paper and put them up on the walls. The students walked around the class and wrote their answers, then we read them together and made some comments/asked follow-up questions.

If you have the time, you can also have a look at this worksheet which includes mixed exercises for the first and second conditional.