Teaching Conditional tenses with Song! | TEFL Jobs London

Teaching Conditional tenses with Song!

by Donna Hutchinson
Newly-qualified TEFL Teacher, @donnatamara

Teaching Conditional tenses with Song!

Teaching grammar can sometimes be, shall we say, really dull and boring but we must accept that it is a fundamental part of EFL and, our students want it. Sometimes, if I’ve taught a lesson with no grammar, students can appear baffled and lost and I must of course stress that grammar is not part of each and every lesson though I do not doubt its importance. Therefore we must try, every now and then, to spice it up a little. We can do this with games which I’ve mentioned in a previous post but, for one particular set of grammar, I like to use the medium of song. And the grammar that gets this star treatment? Conditional tenses! *applause*

Students very often get all shook up and tense about conditional tenses, finding them more frightening than necessary. Grammar exercises do make them look a little intense, all these different formations, clauses and uses; it can be too much for one to handle.  However, the conditional tenses are vital to English and used very often within conversation so it is our duty to make sure students know how to use them properly. Furthermore, the English conditional tenses very often do not directly translate into students’ L1.

What does very often transcend our language barriers though, is popular culture, more specifically, pop music and whether you like it or loathe it, there are songs out there which we all just seem to know. Also, believe it or not, a huge number of songs use the conditional tenses so if you did an online search, you would find many but to save you the trouble, I’m going to share with you the ones I use for each tense.

Warning: these songs may get stuck in your head for the rest of the day

Zero conditional: If I Can’t Have You – Yvonne Elliman/The Bee Gees

If I can’t have you, I don’t want nobody baby.

First conditional: If You Don’t Know Me By Now – Simply Red

If you don’t know me by now, you will never, never, never know me.

Second Conditional: Wouldn’t It Be Nice – The Beach Boys

Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older…

Third Conditional: Cotton Eyed Joe – Rednex

If it hadn’t been for Cotton Eyed Joe, I’d have been married a long time ago

There are, of course, other alternatives, some of which more modern such as Billionaire by Travie McCoy or If I Were A Boy by Beyonce but, I like these ones for the pure fact that they do get stuck in your head. I want these tenses to stick in the mind. I usually prepare a gap-fill exercise or have students put the lyrics in the correct order. This way, you’re also testing their listening skills.

I mean, who wouldn’t want to think of Mick Hucknall whenever they needed to use the first conditional?

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