Adult Class, Level 3: If I had known …

25th July 2019 AEF 3, pp. 84- 85.

Tonight is a new class and experience has taught me to downplay expectations. It’s also quite a large class, about seventeen students, so I’m expecting the whole spectrum of attitudes: motivated, respectful, attentive, apathetic, disrespectful, antagonist. Be that as it may, let’s go in with a positive attitude (and see how long that lasts).

For a new group it’s best to avoid direct questions as students can be shy about speaking in front of the class. However, they DO need to speak, so I’ve prepared a basic questionnaire for them to ask each other. They will need to get up and walk around, asking three different people some basic questions. Naturally, the questions are secondary; getting the students used to communicating with each other in English is the point.

Also, I have to accept that students will be arriving 15, 20, 30 minutes, maybe even an hour late.

Judging the atmosphere in the room, I may actually start with some basic games, asking what they know about London or the UK. The students can be put into small groups to give them a safer speaking environment. If I feel it’s appropriate, I’ll show the ‘Kids Guide to London’ video on YouTube:

This may seem a little strange for an adult class, but it introduces natural speaking (how we link words together), new vocabulary and some fixed expressions. Also, an ‘adult’ class can mean students over the age of fourteen, and usually the classes are mostly comprised of students in their late teens … I’ll save my thoughts on those for another blog.

Tonight’s main focus is the third conditional

This is speaking from hindsight; We talk about something that happened to us in the past and how we would have changed it IF we had known some information.

A basic example: A visit a friend and it is her birthday, but I didn’t know. If I had known it was her birthday, I would have bought her a present.

Notice all the past tense verbs. Furthermore, would is commonly used in conditional sentences.

Now, this example is based on a true story that my history teacher told me back in London.

My teacher was a somewhat dishevelled gentleman in his mid-30s. Let’s call him Mr Bowditch:

Mr Bowditch, history teacher at an east London school

Mr Bowditch lived in a bedsit, which is basically renting one room in a large house and sharing the kitchen and bathroom with other tenants. His room was not particularly comfortable:

One night, Mr Bowditch was in his room and began to feel a little hungry. He wanted some chocolate so decided to go to the off-license and buy some sweets (an off-licence is a shop that sells basic food and sweets but also alcohol and cigarettes. It used to be open until 11.00pm when most shops would close around 6.00 pm). He decided to buy, among other items, some ‘Fry’s Turkish Delight’ a sort of jelly covered in chocolate:

OK, so far so good. However, Mr Bowditch lived in a rather bad part of London, it wasn’t always safe to walk alone at night. Unfortunately, on the way home, Mr Bowditch meet the following young men:

They called out to Mr Bowditch and stopped him walking. They demanded:

Mr Bowditch had none, as he had just spent his money on sweets (candy). They didn’t believe him and began to search him. He showed them:

That was all he had … a few pounds, about 100 000 VND. The men became very angry and aggressive. Suddenly, they heard a police car siren. The men tried to drag Mr Bowditch into the tunnel, away from the road but he is very tall and stopped them. As the police car got closer, the men ran away. Mr Bowditch has never eaten ‘Fry’s Turkish Delight’ again.

There are several instances of the third conditional in the above story.

If Mr Bowditch had bought sweets on his way home, he wouldn’t have gone out later and been mugged (mugged means being robbed, often with violence or the threat of violence).

If Mr Bowditch had gone to a different shop, he wouldn’t have meet the muggers.

If the police car hadn’t been passing, Mr Bowditch might have been seriously hurt.

If Mr Bowditch hadn’t been so tall, he would have been dragged into the tunnel and maybe beaten or worse.

The structure is the first clause starts with ‘If’ then using a comma before completing the sentence. The first verb can be positive or negative (in the examples, I use ‘had’ and ‘hadn’t’).

We use this to talk about things that DIDN’T happen.

At level 3, the books can be very text-heavy, and reading can be boring for students. As mentioned, I don’t know the ability and level of the students. One method is to have the students read just one paragraph and underline how many words they don’t know. If the amount is very high, then I know the level is too high … and I’m in trouble. I’ll have to improvise a lesson.

If (yes, let’s use conditionals) the reading poses no problems, I could have the students working in pairs. One student reads a paragraph and then tells their partner the main information. This is then reversed.

If the students want to learn, and come with energy and motivation, it should be a great lesson. However … this is not always the case … will time fly or will it drag ?

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