Teaching the second conditional form can be a lot of fun as students can come up with some very interesting hypothetical/imaginary situations. In the beginning, students may struggle to grasp the concept of the second conditional form and teachers may find it challenging to teach it. But don’t worry. Follow this step-by-step guide to how to teach the second conditional form and your students will be using it to make interesting sentences in no time.
How To Teach The Second Conditional
The second conditional tense allows your learners to speak about future hypothetical events, given that something occurs first. Hypothetical/imaginary events are sometimes difficult to describe at the beginning, so it is important that you are very patient in Step 1, and It may be beneficial to carry out this class over at least 2 sessions so that the students aren’t overwhelmed. Once students master how to use the second conditional form they’ll be able to use it in a wide range of conversation topics.
Step 1: Explain The Concept
Before teaching the structure of second conditional sentences, it is important to put this grammar point in context and help students to understand the second conditional form conceptually.
A great way to do this is by asking some basic questions about your students’ weekends. As you do so, it will allow students to use some past simple verbs, which are key to the second conditional. For example, here is a conversation you could have which would naturally allow you to introduce the second conditional:
Teacher: Hello, how was your weekend?
Student: It was good, thank you.
Teacher: Did you have a lot of homework?
Student: Yes. I have lots of homework on weekends.
Teacher: Oh no. That’s no fun. If you didn’t have lots of homework on weekends, what would you do?
Student: I would play computer games all day.
A simple dialogue like this can help you elicit second conditional sentences from students while at the same time putting the second conditional form in a realistic context. Once you have suggested the hypothetical situation (“If you didn’t have lots of homework…”) and elicited an answer from the students (I would play computer games”), you can put these together and write it as a second conditional sentence on the board (If I didn’t have homework on weekends, I would play computer games all day.”)
Once the example sentence is on the board, you can highlight to students that the sentence is hypothetical/imaginary by pointing out that the real situation is that the student does have homework on the weekends, and the imaginary situation is that the student doesn’t have homework on weekends. Explain that second conditional sentences like these are used to say what you would do in an imaginary situation like this.
This first step is the most important, and so it is worth spending extra time to help students understand this grammar point conceptually. Be sure to show your students lots of second conditional example sentences and ask them lots of comprehension checking questions to ensure they understand.
Step 2: Teach The Second Conditional Structure
Now that your students are starting to understand the idea, you can show them how to form second conditional sentences. It’s best to try and explain it in simple terms, rather than using complicated grammar terms.
A great way to do this is to explain that second conditional sentences have two parts and you can put them in any order you want. Part A is the condition and Part B is the imagined event. Explain that for Part A, the verb is used in the simple past tense, and for part B, the verb “would” goes together with the main verb.
Using the same example sentences from step one, you can then ask your students to identify these parts that make up second conditional sentences. You can then show them how you can state the sentences with Part A first followed by Part B, or Part B first followed by Part A.
Once you have shown the structure to students and checked their understanding, ask students lots of second conditional questions and have them try to respond using second conditional sentences.
Step 3: When To Use
This step is mostly to reinforce what you talked about in the beginning. You should brainstorm with them possible times they can use this grammar tense, focusing on hypothetical situations. This is your time as a teacher to make sure they understand the topic before letting them practice.
Step 4: Practice
As with anything new in language learning, practice makes perfect. Divide the students into pairs or small groups and have them practice asking second conditional questions and answering using full second conditional sentences. Again, you can use our list of second conditional questions or provide your own topics for students to talk about.
Step 5: Other Forms
Now that students have a good grasp of the second conditional form, it’s time to show students how they can make more second conditional sentences by using other modal verbs such as “could” and “might”, as well. Create some example sentences together as a class and then have students practice this new form until they can confidently make various second conditional forms.
Thanks for reading. I hope you found this guide useful. Before you go, you might want to check out these related resources for teaching conditional forms.