Below are some activities I use in class to get the students to practice the different conditional forms. Enjoy!
Used to talk about actions that are generally true.
A Guide for Aliens
Ask students to imagine aliens coming to earth and needing some general advice about living on their new planet. Give some suggestions such as; if you press the on/off button on the computer, it turns the computer on; if you go to the beach without sunscreen, you get sun burnt; if you want to go for a drive, you need to put gas in the car…etc.
Get students to volunteer more tips which can be added to an Alien Guidebook.
Example - If you turn the tap, water comes out.
Ask students about superstitions from their country and tell them a few from English speaking countries. Write a few on the board and discuss whether they are plausible or not. See if the host country and the teacher’s country of origin have any superstitions in common.
Example - If you break a mirror, you get 7 years bad luck.
Used to talk about possible future situations. Also used in offers or threats.
Ask students in pairs to write a number of first conditionals on a piece of paper. They cut up the IF clause and the Main clause and mix them. They then pass on the pieces of paper to their neighbour, who must re-order the conditionals.
Example - If Spain wins the league, I will be very happy.
In pairs students are given a card with 6 clauses on it. These clauses are the endings of a first conditional sentence. The teacher reads out the beginning of each clause and the pairs must cross off the ending they think is correct. The pair that crosses all clauses off shouts Bingo. They then read back their clauses to make sure they’re right.
Example - I will be nervous / if I forget my lines on stage.
Used to talk about a future situation that is unlikely or impossible to happen.
Give the first student an opening clause, for example, “If I found £50 on the ground”. The student writes the second clause underneath, for example, “I’d go to the casino”, and folds the piece of paper. The next student only reads the last clause and adds a sentence to connect to it. When everyone has written something read out the text to the class.
Example - If I went to the casino, I’d lose all my money
Student write out a number of personality questionnaires to be handed to their partner. To make it interesting some of them should contain moral dilemmas. Students then tell the class what their partner was asked and how they answered.
Example - If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?
Refers to an imaginary or hypothetical past and consequence.
Changing the Past
Look at a news article about Lady Diana’s death. Ask students 'what if' questions, for example, what if the driver had not been drunk; what if they had not been chased by the paparazzi…etc. You can use many hypothetical situations such the shooting of John Lennon, Whitney Houston’s drug overdose, the involvement of the Allies in WW2, The Arab Spring... etc.
Example - If the car had not gone through the tunnel, they wouldn’t have crashed.
What would you have done?
Ask a student to leave the room and get the other students to invent something that could have happened in the classroom while the other student was gone, for example, the water pipes under the room bursting .The student returns and asks everyone “What would you have done if this had happened?” The others only give one answer each, for example, “I would have called a plumber if this had happened”.
Example - If this had happened, I would have called the authorities.
Second and Third conditionals can be mixed depending on which time you want the If clause and the Main to be in.
Change the Conditional
Give students a list of third conditionals and tell them to change the sentences to Mixed so that it alters the meaning.
Examples - If Jack hadn’t invited us, we wouldn’t have been at the wedding (3rd - we were at the wedding in the past).
If Jack hadn’t invited us, we wouldn’t be here (Mixed - we are at the wedding now).
Cut up a sheet of paper with Mixed conditionals on it. Separate the If clause from the Main clause. Give each student 1 clause. They must walk around the room looking at the other students’ clauses and decide which clause best suits their half of the sentence. They then stand beside that person.
Example - If he had earned enough money, he could buy the phone.
Need an engaging lesson plan?
Did you know that 6.4 trillion litres of pee are produced globally each year by humans? What should we do with all that liquid? Read this fascinating ESL lesson plan – The Power of Pee to get your students talking about these hilarious and innovative ideas.
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