If you’re planning to teach the zero conditional form, then check out this step-by-step guide on how to teach the zero conditional. This grammatical structure is a lot easier for students to learn than some teachers may believe. Oftentimes, making zero conditional sentences comes very naturally to students and they are usually able to comfortably start using this grammatical structure after just a few lessons.
As the zero conditional from is the easiest of the conditionals to learn, it’s best to teach this form before moving on to teach first, second, and third conditionals. Let’s take a look at how to teach the zero conditional form to students.
How To Teach The Zero Conditional
Step 1: Explain The Concept
The first step to teaching students the zero conditional form, is to help students understand what zero conditional sentences are used to express. A great way to do this is to ask them questions about some general truths that they probably know the answer to. For example, you can ask them “What happens if you heat water to 100 degrees Celcius?” and students will likely answer “It boils.” Next, you can write their answer on the board in the form of a zero conditional sentence:
“If you heat water to 100 degrees Celcius, it boils.”
Ask students some other questions like this and write their answers on the board, again in the form of a zero conditional sentence. Once you have a few sentences on the board, you can explain that they are zero conditional sentences and they all express something which is always true if the condition in the sentence is met. The next step is then to show students the structure of zero conditional sentences.
Step 2: Show How To Form Zero Conditional Sentences
Now that your students are starting to understand the concept, you can show them how to form the zero conditional. It’s best to use simple words rather than grammatical terms when showing them the structure.
A great way to do this is to explain that there are two main parts to zero conditional sentences, Part A and Part B. Explain that Part A is the condition part and is formed by “if + present simple”, and Part B is the fact part and is formed by using the present simple tense.
Using the sentences you wrote on the board earlier, you can now ask students to try and identify the condition part and the fact part of each sentence. For example, in the sentence “If you eat a lot, you put on weight.”, Part A (the condition part) would be “If you eat a lot”, and Part B (the fact part) would be “you put on weight”.
Step 3: Introduce “When” and “Whenever”
Now that students understand the concept and structure of zero conditional sentences, it’s time to introduce other ways to make the condition part of the sentence. The most basic form of zero conditional sentences uses “if” to form the condition part of the sentence. However, it is also possible to make the condition part using “When” and “Whenever”. For example,
“When you eat too much food, you put on weight.”
Provide students with lots of examples and be sure to ask many concept-checking questions to make sure they understand what these sentences are expressing. If you need some ideas for example sentences, check out these zero conditional examples.
Step 4: Introduce Zero Conditional Commands
The next step is to introduce zero conditional commands. The zero conditional is often used in conjunction with the imperative form to give instructions. It’s likely they are already familiar with this form from listening to the teacher in class. For example,
“When you finish your test, turn it over.”
Show students many examples and ask them to try and come up with their own commands to practice making these sorts of sentences.
Step 5: Conversation Practice
In this last step, students will use what they have learned to talk with their partner, or in small groups. Provide students with many zero conditional questions and have them ask and answer these questions using the zero conditional form. You can print a list of zero conditional questions from our zero conditionals examples page for this activity.
Step 6: Review
The last step is of course to review the key points from the lesson and check that students have understood what zero conditional sentences are used for and how to form zero conditional sentences.
A great way to do a check-up at the end of class is to have students line up at the door. Then, before they leave ask them a question and have them answer using a zero conditional sentence. For example, you might ask “What happens if you heat water to 100 degrees Celcius?” and students can answer “If you heat water to 100 degrees Celcius, it boils.”
Thanks for reading. I hope you found this guide useful. Before you go, be sure to check out the related resources below for more help teaching the different conditionals.