In your classes, you have probably used the imperative form when giving directions to your students so they will be familiar with at least one of its uses. This lesson will make students more aware of the imperative form and give them the opportunity to practice using it.
Teaching The Imperative
It has probably been a long time since your students played Simon Says so give them a review of body parts while practicing the imperative form by playing this game. Rather than have only one person give instructions, have students stand in a circle and take turns being Simon. This way when you give your introduction, students will have already had some practice using the imperative structure.
Introduce the imperative form using both positive and negative examples. “Please, stand up.” would be a positive form that students should be familiar with from class while the negative “Don’t text in class” is hopefully not needed very often. Elicit other imperative sentences from your students and write down further examples of your own. Explain that this structure is used when giving directions and orders and give students some speaking practice by having them read the sentences you have written on the board aloud.
Have students match images with sentences. The images should depict either scenarios or actions where use of an imperative sentence would be appropriate. A good example would be to match the universal “no smoking” sign with the sentence “Don’t smoke.” You can also have students complete a fill in the blank exercise where the missing words are listed for them to choose from. Check the answers as a class and review why certain choices were correct by asking questions about the images or sentences.
Students have already been given many examples and completed a worksheet so they should have a good idea of when to use the imperative. At this point, talk about being polite while still giving orders and lead by example using please when giving instructions to your students. Discuss situations where use of the imperative form would be appropriate. Shouting for someone to “Stop!” if he is about to cross the street when a car is coming would be fine. On the other hand, if someone is simply making lots of noise or distracting you, shouting “Stop!” would be considered impolite. Tell students that directions in the form of a recipe or an instructional manual would also commonly use the imperative form.
Prepare passages which include several imperative sentences and write the individual sentences on strips of paper. These can be conversations, sets of instructions, or recipes. A conversation could start off like this “Be quiet! I think I hear something. Come here. I heard it again! Listen carefully.” Have students work in groups. Each group should be given the strips of paper to complete one passage and work together to place sentences in the correct order. Since each group has a different passage, it may be fun to have students share them with the class when the activity has been completed.
Directions lessons will give students lots of practice using the imperative. At this time, instead of practicing giving directions, focus on cooking vocabulary and recipes instead. Have students write recipes for their favorite dishes using the imperative form. They can practice reading the instructions as well but it may be necessary to make corrections before asking students to read their recipes aloud. In order to challenge students, you may have to specify how many sentences are required to complete this activity. Giving students an example on the board, will help them immensely. Encourage students to ask you questions as you move around the class monitoring their progress.
Ask for volunteers to give you imperative sentences. Once a student has volunteered, he can sit down while the rest of the class thinks of sentences. Continue this activity until all the students are seated or the bell rings and do not accept duplicate sentences.
The imperative form is something students will have a lot of practice with especially when studying directions. Ensuring that students understand this structure now will make future classes much easier for both you and them.
Tara Arntsen has worked with English Language Learners of all ages for many years and has taught in Japan, Cambodia, and China as well as online. When she is not teaching, she enjoys cooking, traveling around the world, and scuba diving. She is a member of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Teaching-TESOL at the University of Southern California.