Dear Abby, How Can I Practice the Imperative?

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First things first. Your students probably have never heard of the Dear Abby advice column. Maybe you haven’t either. But that’s OK; it still provides a good context for your students to practice using the imperative mood in the language that they’re studying and it can be accomplished very easily on Extempore.

I’m actually working with my Spanish 2 students right now on command forms and I’m always reminded of how difficult it can be for students at first. At least in Spanish, there are a lot of moving parts — learning how to distinguish between affirmative and negative forms (which can be quite different), irregular forms, what to do with reflexive, direct, and indirect object pronouns, etc. — and students need all the practice that they can get with them. And don’t even get me started on formal and/or “let’s…” (first person plural) command forms, which just up the ante even further. I suspect that command forms in other languages are challenging as well.

Because of this, providing a fun outlet for creative (and communicative) usage of command forms is a must, and the Dear Abby advice column context is a great way to achieve this goal, even if your students have never heard of it. It’s really easy–just record a handful of audio prompts on Extempore in which you identify a problem in search of a solution. Make them as broad as possible for general speaking practice or chapter- or unit-specific to practice with particular vocabulary. Here are a few examples:

  • “Dear Abby, my friends and I are going on a long road trip to go skiing in Colorado for Spring Break. What do we need to do to prepare for the trip. What shouldn’t we do?”
  • “Dear Abby, my roommates are pretty inconsiderate. They never wash the dishes, they hog the TV, and they stay up late at night, keeping me awake. How can I fix this problem? What shouldn’t I say or do?”
  • “Dear Abby, I’ve been pulling late hours at my job but I have a couple big school assignments coming up. I don’t think I’ll have time to put my best effort into them. What should I do to get the best grade possible. What shouldn’t I do?”

The students at home play the role of “Abby” and need to tell you, using command forms, naturally, what to do to solve your quandary. This format is particularly useful for a couple of reasons. First, your students must listen closely to your prompt, thus in turn practicing their active listening skills. Secondly, and most obviously, they’re getting extra out-of-the-classroom spontaneous speaking practice and using the imperative mood in a fun, communicative context, rather than simply conjugating verbs on another worksheet. You, as the teacher, get a snapshot of their current control of the imperative, and can then more effectively intervene if a student is having difficulty with these forms. It’s a win-win for everyone. Give it a shot and let us know what you think!

This is just one, fun and easy speaking activity that can be used in the classroom setting. We have created a list of 29 other speaking activities that you can use today. We compiled these activities into an eBook with detailed descriptionofon many more classroom activites, all FREE. Just click the download link below.
Speaking Activities PDF