Thursday, 8 January 2015

If... Student poems with a condition

Conditionals are a grammar point that will often get a groan, even from the grammar enthusiasts in a class. To many students they're fiddly, boring and repetitive. Exercises seem to consist of matching sentences or questions such as "What would you do if you won the lottery?". So I decided to give a class the opportunity to do something a bit more creative with conditionals, and I think we were all surprised by the results!

This activity was done with an Upper Intermediate group. At the beginning of the week we had looked at a poem, as they occur quite frequently in our course book (Global). A couple of days later we were covering conditionals and I decided to incorporate poetry into the lesson.

I was aware of the speaking game where a student gives a conditional sentence and the next student must start their sentence with the result clause from the previous student. I thought that this could easily be adapted into a free verse poem writing task.

We had gone through all the conditionals but I felt the 2nd was most appropriate for the task.
When I told the class that they were going to write a poem they were shocked, "I can't write a poem in Spanish, how can I write one in English?!".

I explained to the class that they would be doing a free verse poem so it wouldn't need to rhyme and it wouldn't need a rhythm. The most important thing was to be creative (and of course get the grammar right!). I wrote a brief example on the board and asked the class if they could see the pattern. I suggested some opening sentences to the class, however they didn't have to use them.

Once they understood the concept we went to the computers so that they could write the poems on the class forum. I really wanted the students to read their classmates' poems as I had a feeling that there would be some good ones!

The students really got into the task. Once they started they realised that it wasn't that difficult to write a poem in English. They had some really imaginative ideas, and to be honest it surprised me how well they did. While they were writing I was there to help with any vocabulary questions and give them gentle nudging to check the form of the verbs.

It took approximately 20 minutes for the students to write their poems. Most were surreal and very entertaining. Every member of the class was very proud of their work. We spent a few minutes reading each others poems and students were encouraged to comment.

That evening I created a document that included all the poems on one sheet of A4. A student commented that now they had their poems in print they were real artists!

A Selection of Student Poems:

If I were a child, I'd climb the palm tree 
If I climbed the palm tree, I'd collect some coconuts 
If I collected some coconuts, I'd give some to the monkeys 
If I gave some to the monkeys, I'd play with them 
If I played with them, I'd feel like Mowgli 
If I felt like Mowgli. I'd feel happy 
If I felt happy, I'd jump down 
If I jumped down, I'd break my legs. 
If I broke my legs, everybody'd laugh me.
by S. from Turkey

If I won the lottery, I'd buy a rocket to the moon. 
If I went to the moon, I'd speak with ET. 
If I spoke with ET, I'd ask him how to fly. 
If I knew how to fly, I'd travel around space without diesel in my rocket. 
If I traveled around space, I'd meet another ETs. 
If I met other ETs, I'd ask them for the secrets of the universe. 
If I asked ETs for the secrets of universe, I'd return to the earth with the real truth. 
If I returned to the earth with the real truth, I'd win the lottery.
by C. from Spain

If I were a cat, I would be an animal. 
If I were an animal, I would have four legs. 
If I had four legs, I could run very fast. 
If I ran very fast, I could catch a little mouse. 
If I caught a little mouse, I would play with it. 
If I played with it, we would be friends. 
If we were friends, we could stay a long time in the sun. 
If we stayed a long time in the sun, we could stay in the sun chair. 
If we stayed in the sun chair, our owner would be angry. 
If our owner was angry, she wouldn't have cats. 
If she didn't have cats, she would have mice. 
If she didn't have mice, we couldn't be friends.
by M. from Spain

If I won the lottery, I'd travel around the world 
If I traveled around the world, I'd learn lot of things 
If I learnt lot of things, I'd be a better person 
If I was a better person, I'd help people 
If I helped people, I'd be happier 
If I were happier, I'd spread my energy 
If I spread my energy, I'd feel like a goddess 
If I felt like a goddess, I'd wake up.
by S. from Spain

Image made using photos taken from by @sandymillin, Phil Bird, @dudeneyge, @mkofab, Martin Eayrs, @GoldstienBen used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license,

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