This step-by-step guide on how to teach the first conditional form will help you, the teacher, explain first conditionals to students in an easy-to-understand way. The first conditional form can be particularly challenging for English language learners to grasp. Students often feel confused about where to put the modal verb “will/won’t”, and sometimes confuse the first conditional with other conditional forms. But, the first conditional doesn’t have to be complicated. Follow this step-by-step guide and your students will be using the first conditional form in no time.
Related: First Conditional Questions
How To Teach The First Conditional
Step 1: Contextualize the First Conditional
First things first, you need to put the first conditional into context. That is to say, you need to show students when and why they will need to use the first conditional form. Start by writing an example sentence on the board. For example, “If I do my homework, the teacher will be happy.”. Explain to students that first conditional sentences like this are used to talk about future things that could easily come true.
Step 2: Breakdown The First Conditional Structure
Next, show students how first conditional sentences are made. Explain that the first conditional is composed of two parts: a condition and a result. Using the same sentence as before (“If I do my homework, the teacher will be happy”), ask students to try to identify the result part of the sentence and the condition part of the sentence. Explain that the result is the thing that will likely happen if the condition is met.
Next, show that first conditional sentences can be made by stating the condition part first, followed by the result part, or by stating the result part first, followed by the condition part. For example;
- “If I do my homework, the teacher will be happy.”
- “The teacher will be happy if I do my homework.”
Once students have a grasp of the basic structure of the first conditional form, using examples, demonstrate to students that the condition part is stated using “If” + the present simple tense. For example;
- “If it rains,”
- “If I oversleep,”
- “If the train is late,”
And then, show students that the result part is stated as will/won’t + the base verb. For example;
- “If it rains, I won’t go to the beach.”
- “If I oversleep, I will be late for school.”
- “If the train is late, I will be angry.”
Step 3: Practice Building Sentences
Now that you’ve explained when to use a first conditional and how it’s structured, it’s time to let your students practice building these sentences. A fun way to do this is to draw two lines on the board, one for the condition part of the sentence, and one for the result part of the sentence. Next, invite one student up to the board to write the condition part, and then ask another student to complete the sentence by writing the result part of the sentence.
Once they have created a first conditional sentence, ask the class to tell you how to write the sentence in the reverse order (result part then condition part). This activity is a lot of fun and students usually come up with some really funny first conditional sentences.
Step 4: Review
After your students have practiced making sentences with the first conditional, review the elements and order of the sentences. By this time, you should have some fun example sentences on the board.
Choose a sentence and ask your students to answer the following questions:
- What is the condition?
- What is the result?
- Where is the modal verb? (will / won’t).
Common Mistakes With The First Conditional Form
As with learning any new grammar, students often make some common mistakes when first making first conditional sentences. One of the most common mistakes is that students sometimes place the modal verb “will/won’t” in the condition part of the sentence, which is incorrect. The “will/won’t” modal verb belongs in the result part of the first conditional sentence. Here are some examples you can show your students to highlight this common mistake:
- INCORRECT: If class *will be canceled, I will be happy.
- CORRECT: If class is canceled, I will be happy.
- INCORRECT: You will have fun if you *will talk to more people.
- CORRECT: You will have more fun if you talk to more people.
You can help your students to avoid this common mistake by explaining that each first conditional sentence or question should only contain one modal verb (will/won’t). This makes it easy for them to check their sentences; if they can count more than one use of will/won’t, they need to delete one.
Another common mistake with the first conditional form is the unnecessary use of a comma in some sentences. We use a comma in first conditional sentences when the condition precedes the result. If the result comes first, there is no comma.
- Condition + result: “If it rains, I will go home.” (Comma)
- Result + condition: “I will go home if it rains.” (No comma)
The best way to help students know when to use the comma is by having them label their sentences according to the condition and result.
Thanks for reading. I hope you found this guide to teaching the first conditional form useful. Before you go, be sure to check out these related articles and resources: