Creative absurdity for 1st Conditionals

I love quotes. I literally spend hours searching for quotes and photos with quotes that strike me somehow.

This is how I came across this image… and I immediately thought it could be the starting point, base and inspiration for a fun 1st Conditionals lesson plan.



After working with young learners and having been a language learner myself, I have come to realise that grammar is always more memorable and easier to digest when presented inductively, allowing students to notice the grammar rules through participation and reflection. It might not always work, depending on the language point or the level of the students, but it’s worth trying it out whenever possible. It is definitely a much more learner-centered approach than going straight into “Good morning. Today we are going to look at 1st Conditionals”… I dreaded those when I was a student myself.

Now, let’s get to the actual nitty-gritty…


  • Write on the board :    NO PEN = DEATH

  • Discuss in pairs:  Ask Ss to try to imagine how could a “no pen” situation lead to “death” as a result.  Let them know you want them to …BE CREATIVE, EVEN BE ABSURD.
  • Get some open class feedback on this first round. You’ll probably be laughing by this point 🙂 Some students might already use If clauses or at least try to do so. Pause to focus on it, making it noticeable to the class, you could even write “IF” on the board and subtly show through your gestures and body language, that it’s and interesting point that you’ll get back to later.
  • Now provide them with two more points along this chain of consequences and let them have another go with this extra information: ……NO WORK …… NO MARRIAGE 
  • Feedback once again.
  • Now show them the full chain of consequences. Give them a couple of minutes to go through it. Check for vocabulary questions.  (You could make a poster sized version on cardboard)

2. TASK 1 – FOCUS ON MEANING AND FORM (only orally for now)

  • Ask students which side of the list (left or right) is the cause or condition and which is the result.
  • Read out the first three or four lines but using the 1st conditional form. Do it slowly first, stressing the IF and WILL in the sentences. Do it a second time in a more natural manner and ask Ss to repeat it. Choral drill the first to focus on intonation but then switch to individual drilling in a random order.

              If you lose your pen, you will not have a pen …

If you don’t have a pen, you will not take notes …

If you don’t take notes, you  will not study…

  • Guide them to keep going until the end of chain, either 1 full sentence per student or choosing different students for the first and second half of each sentence. This will really require their full attention.




  • Ask Ss: Did  you ever think loosing a pen might result in such disaster? 
  • Ask them if it sounds familiar at all. Elicit Murphy’s Law and discuss it briefly.
  • Show them the following images (you can use any images that would elicit any of Murphy’s laws) :

murphy's law pics


  • Give students the opportunity to try producing a Murphy’s Law to fit the images. First let them work in small groups, just orally for now. Remind them to use  IF ….. WILL /WON’T
  • Get feedback for ideas. During this feedback, if the structure has been used wrong, point it out, give others the opportunity to correct it, emphasise what part needs to be corrected or improved (it might even be the intonation) and once they’ve got it right, write it down on the board.

FIRST CONDITIONAL – Real possibility

If + present simple , subj+ will/won’t + base verb  = If I am late, my mom will be angry

Subj + will/won’t + base verb + If + present simple = My mom will be angry if I am late

At this point it is a good idea to emphasise that it is a future situation that will most likely take place given those    circumstances. Using Murphy’s Law and absurd chains of events is just a way to help the form stick and make a memorable association.

You might want to provide students with some controlled written practice using some gap-filling exercises or a matching halves type of exercise. I would personally do so in a follow-up class. That would give us the chance not only to review and practice the form conscientiously but to reminisce the funny moments of this first class.


This is the part I like the most.

  • Give each group of students a blank sheet of paper. Ask them to create a chain of events similar to the one used at the beginning of the lesson, but just half as long, about 5 linked cause – effects. THEY SHOULD USE THE FIRST CONDITIONAL TO WRITE DOWN THEIR CHAIN. (Monitor while they are doing it to check on form).
  • Use blue-tack to stick them up around the class. Ask Ss to stand up and read through the other groups and vote for their favourite.
  • To end the lesson, ask them which is their favourite absurd chain of events and why.


I have enjoyed doing this myself. Hope you find it useful.

Please, feel free to comment, correct or make any suggestions.