Not Demonstrating

Just like children do a great deal of language learning by listening and imitating, teen or adult English learners also need to have lots of examples in order to understand and properly use structures in English.

As you teach your students grammar or vocabulary, be sure that you give numerous and clear examples to demonstrate each use you explain. You should only ask students to produce examples of their own after they have seen several examples and feel comfortable with the structure.

It is very important for students to create real examples that are interesting and pertinent to their lives, but that is always step two!

The first step should always be to give examples to your students. This will apply to any new structure or vocabulary you are using. We can use the example of English conditionals. This can be a confusing topic at first for students, so start with the simpler real conditionals.

First, explain how the real (zero and first) conditionals work. Give the students realistic and common examples on the board so everyone can see them and copy them down correctly.

For example:
  • If it rains, the streets get wet. (zero)
  • If Ellen arrives, I will make tea. (first)
Carefully explain the structures for each kind of conditional and give two or three more examples.

Next, gradually transition the students into creating their own examples. You can do this by starting sentences on the board and asking the students to finish them.

For example:
  • If it gets very cold outside...
  • If you do not water plants...
  • If I am late for class...
Finally, try to give students examples in larger contexts. Stories with many examples are great for this. After seeing isolated examples and the structure used in context, students will feel much more comfortable producing the structure on their own.

Be sure your students have examples available to look at in their notes, on the board, or in other activity materials so that they can check their work as they make their own examples. This will help them immediately identify mistakes and understand how to use the structures in real English.