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Teaching Modals: Lesson Plans

Schedule for Teaching Modals

Day One: An Overview of Modals & the Simple Present [Allow students time to take notes as you go along]

Put the following question on the top left corner of the board: "What is a modal?/Can anyone give me an example of a modal?". Usually someone will be able to suggest an example or two. If not, listing a couple on the board is often enough to get the ball rolling. List a few of the students' suggestions on the board and then let them know that there are actually four main types/categories of modals.

Present Modals Past Modals
  • simple present modals
  • present continuous modals
  • simple past modals
  • past continuous modals

Begin the lessons with the simple present modals:

  1. Start with an example modal like [can]. Ask students to give you a sentence, and write it down on the board... (They're usually able to do so, and you can always help them along as needed.)

    Tom can eat ten burgers at one time.

    Label the modal and the verb in the sentence and ask students if they think we should put an "s" on the verb since our subject is Tom.

    Tom can eats ten burgers at one time.[Is this correct? --No]

    Use this question to lead students to the fact that modals are always followed by the base verb form.

  2. At this point we can come up with a formula for how to make a simple present modal and write it on the board:
    • simple present modal = modal + base verb

  3. With our modal formula firmly in hand, we should turn our attention to some different modals and what they mean.


page last modified: November 1, 2016

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