Teaching English If-conditional sentences to Chinese students is always a challenge for English teachers. English teachers are still continuously seeking for an effective method to make the language point more understandable for students. The probability approach put forward by Mei Wu (2012) provides a clear classification of conditional sentences. Based on her theory, conditional sentences can be mainly divided into four types. In terms of probability, type 1 is the factual conditionals (zero condition) which mean the event is definitely happen to meet the condition stated in the if-clause. Type2 is the predictive conditionals which refer to the event that has high possibility to happen in the future while type 3 is the hypothetical conditionals (second conditional) which used to describe the situation which has low probability to become true. Both type2 and type 3 use past tense to express different meaning. Then, past perfect tense is used in the situation which is impossible to take place in the past in type 4. (Wu, 2012)
Based upon the interview, students are confusing about the tense in the second conditional sentence. What students have learnt in the previous class is that past tense only used to describe things took place in the past. Therefore, they find it difficult to understand why past tense verb should be used in the if-clause to express something happen in the present or future in imaginary situation. Moreover, we may easily observed that Chinese people seldom change tenses and modality in verb phrase to differentiate the conditional situation because there is only one verb tense in Chinese language. (Zhang, 2005:18)
The purpose of this paper is to discuss the approaches to enhance the effectiveness of conditional sentences teaching. The first part is the critical analysis of the strengths, limitations and the effectiveness of Ms. Wong’s teaching method. The following part goes to talk about the pedagogical implications that we learn from Ms. Wong’s class. Then, part three presents the alternative teaching activity to explain the second conditional sentence. The last part is to discuss about the activity and its theoretical rationale.
2. A Critique of Ms. Wong’s Teaching Approach
2.1 Ways of Presenting Conditional Sentence
Ms. Wong mainly followed the PPP (present, practice, produce) teaching pattern to present conditional sentence. It is the most widely practical teaching method used in grammar instruction. (Long &Doughty, 2009) In the first stage, Ms. Wong explained four types of conditional sentences regarding to the forms and positions of some grammatical words. Then, students were asked to practice the new grammatical structures and rules by doing some controlled exercises such as drilling or making dialogue. After that, students received corrective feedback from Ms. Wong to solving their puzzles. Finally, teacher concludes the key points of the grammar pattern. This teaching pattern can also be...