Posted 1/2/10
What do Homer Simpson and Sarah Palin have in common? They have both said something along the lines of: “If God hadn’t wanted us to eat animals, he wouldn’t have made them out of meat.” (Read more about Palin’s comment here). This justification is the starting point for this grammar activity in which students use a search engine as a corpus. The task is to find similar “If God had wanted us to …” examples. Needless to say, some students may feel that this trivialises religion (and vegetarianism). Use your professional judgement and don’t blame me if things go horribly wrong :-)

  • Language level: Intermediate (B1) +
  • Learner type: Teens; Adults
  • Time: 30 minutes of class time (+ Homework)
  • Activity: Using the Internet as a corpus
  • Topic: God
  • Language: Third conditional
  • Materials: Internet connection; Worksheet
Third conditional pdf [downloaded 4205 times]

Lesson plan summary

  1. Find out how many vegetarians or vegans there are in the class.
  2. Show the picture of Homer Simpson and introduce the cartoon character if necessary (see Wikipedia for more). Tell students that in one episode of the Simpsons, Homer uses an excuse for not being a vegetarian. Ask if they can guess what he says.
  3. Write the following grid on the board:
  4. Note that this grid represents Homer’s carnivorous justification: “If God hadn’t wanted us to eat animals, he wouldn’t have made them out of meat.” Each line in the grid represents an individual word in the quotation.
  5. Use the grid to play Grammar Hangman. Instead of suggesting individual letters, students try to guess whole words that fit on the grid as well as their specific locations. To do this, they will have to concentrate and use their knowledge of grammar.
  6. Grammar hangman

    • Start by adding two or three content words to the grid in the correct place. For example: God (2), animals (8), made (12), etc.
    • Ask students to make suggestions for more words that would fit on the grid to complete Homer’s quotation. Importantly, they must also give you the numbered position onto which they think the word should be placed.
    • Whenever a student identifies a word and it’s correct position, the teacher writes it on the correct place in the grid.
    • Whenever a student gives an incorrect word or position, the teacher adds a part to the hangman diagram (see below). The teacher should make a note of all incorrect guesses on the board.
    • Students win if they successfully manage to identify the whole quotation before making 11 incorrect suggestions.

  7. Ask students what they think about Homer’s justification.
  8. Ask students if they can think of any more quotations or example sentences that start with the words:
  9. If God had wanted …” or “If God hadn’t wanted …

    If students are able to make any more suggestions, help with the grammar and write them on the board. If students are unable to think of any more examples, don’t worry.

  10. You are now going to demonstrate to your students how they can use the Internet to look for more examples. You will need online access in class for this. Go to your favourite search engine (Yahoo, Google, Altavista, Lycos, etc) and type either of the above phrases into the search window. Make sure you type it between inverted commas (“”):
  11. Click search and you will be given a page of partially contextualised examples of the language.
  12. Bring a few of the example sentences to your students’ attention. For example, the page above has the following:
    • If God had wanted us to vote, he would have given us candidates.
    • If God had wanted me otherwise, he would have created me otherwise.
    • If God had wanted us to be concerned for the plight of toads, he would have made them cute and furry.
    • If God had wanted you to succeed, he would have made you a BMW.
    • If God had wanted man to play soccer, he wouldn’t have given us arms.
  13. Note that in some cases you will have to click on the links to see the whole sentence.

  14. Give out copies of the Worksheet (included in PDF above) and ask students to complete it for homework or in an IT room, etc.

Follow up

Take back the completed worksheets and choose the 8 funniest or most thought-provoking examples that were found. Type them, give copies to your students, and ask them to translate the sentences into their own language(s) on a separate piece of paper. Then take back the original English sentences and ask students to translate the translated sentences back into English.

Posted 1/2/10

7 Responses to Third conditional

  1. Eva Suárez says:

    I’m going to try this lesson with my students tomorrow. I’m sure it will work. I’ll let you know.

  2. maria says:

    I’m definitely trying somethign similar with my 1st Bachiller students, but I’ll change it a little bit… I’ll give you some feedback afterwards. Thanks.

    Maria (Valencia)

  3. Aisha Ertugrul says:

    This is perfect.

    “If God hadn’t wanted us to be the best we could be, we wouldn’t have evolved past primates.”

  4. Jamie Keddie says:

    Yeah – proud to be a mammal (especially a human)
    Going to get a T-shirt made :)
    Thanks Aisha
    Jamie :)

  5. Rebecca Lackenbauer says:

    I did this with a class of 13-year-olds and it was great. Before I revised 1st and 2nd Conditonal by asking them what they will do at the weekend if the weather is nice or not nice and what they would do if they won a million euros. Then I did this and followed it by aksing them what would have been different if certain events in history had been different. It worked wonderfully and they didn’t even notice that they where doing grammar until I told them at the end of the lesson. Thanks :)

  6. Jamie Keddie says:

    They didn’t even know they were doing grammar! I love it!
    Great ideas. Thank you for sharing them Rebecca.
    Jamie :)

  7. Oksana says:

    Thanks a lot for your ideas! We had this lesson yesterday and it was great.
    Can you imagine my students’ faces when I asked them to take their smartphones and do Google search? They were really engaged in this activity and found some good phrases. After that we discussed why they had chosen them, in what circumstances they could say them.
    But what they enjoyed the most was the Hangman game. They were doing their best till the end, but failed. The prepositions “out of” were hard for them to guess.