You are prepping for an upcoming grammar lesson on causative verbs when you notice that the grammar textbook you’re using pretty much throws students into the deep end of using causatives. The stage never gets set. Just a quick shove from behind and the students are expected to perform. You want to introduce causatives in a way that grabs and keeps their attention. You want it to be relevant.
Causative Verbs: So let them be written. So let them be done.
Causative verbs, or causatives, convey an action that the subject has caused to happen rather than performed themselves. Miguel had reporters called to the scene. Miguel didn’t call the reporters himself, but it wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for him. He made it happen by getting someone else to do it. So how do we introduce this concept in a meaningful way for our adult ESL students?
Lead with examples that are specific to their lives.
Step #1 Know your students.
Even if you haven’t yet had a chance to get to know your students, you can make some generalizations that will lead to the use of causative verbs. Might some of them be parents? Do any of them drive? Is it possible that someone has had a haircut? Have they ever nagged someone or been nagged themselves? Use anything specific (that is not private information) that you can and then generalize the rest based on what you know about them and their cultures.
Step #2 Create a list of questions that incorporate causative verbs.
You’re not going to even mention causative just yet. First, you are going to make your students aware of it. When you ask them questions related to their lives, they will make the connection that the grammar concept is useful and not just something to learn for a test.
Step #3 Use your questions and their answers to lead the way.
Ask a student, “Do you change the oil in your car?” If that student says, “Yes,” write out that sentence on the board. Keiko changes the oil in her car. Ask another student until you get someone who answers in the negative. Then ask, “Who changes it for you?”
- Abdul: The mechanic.
- You: For free? Without being asked?
- Abdul: No, I pay him to do it.
- You: (writing on the board) Abdul has the mechanic change the oil in his car.
Repeat this with more questions such as:
- Do you cut your own hair?
- Do you pick up your own pizza?
- What about spiders in your house? Do you remove them yourself?
- Do you refill your own drink at a restaurant?
- What about your children’s rooms? Do you clean up your children’s rooms for them?
Be sure to use the active voice in every sentence.
Step #4 Give them some discovery time.
At this point, you should write either “causative” or “causative verb” on the board so that your students have a label to use when talking about them. Now let’s move to the structure. The format of a sentence with a causative verb is important. Students need to know it, but you don’t have to be the one to tell it to them. Pair them up or have them work in small groups to compare the structure of the sentence pairs on the board. If all your sentence pairs are in the same verb tense, ask them to try changing the tense.
Step #5 Try switching the voice in sentences containing causative verbs.
Choose one of the causative sentences from the board and rewrite it to make it passive. For example:
Abdul has the mechanic change the oil in his car.
Abdul has the oil in his car changed. or Abdul has the oil in his car changed by the mechanic.
Ask them what’s different about it. If they cannot answer, lead them to it by asking:
- Who is the subject in both questions?
- Who does the action?
- Which sentence focuses more on the action?
- Which sentence focuses more on who did the action?
Now have the students transform the other causative sentences in the passive voice.
Why take all the time that requires?
The repetition involved in completing workbooks and worksheets helps students remember, but this works best if first, they understand. By introducing causatives in a way that shows that they have relevance to their lives and affect the meaning of a message, you ensure you have their buy-in. It takes more time than just jumping directly to written exercises. Still, because they’ll understand it more fully, they’ll be able to complete those exercises more quickly, with fewer mistakes, and require less review to keep the concept fresh in their minds.
No, I didn’t…
After completing this speaking activity for causative verbs, you are far less likely to have students greet you with “You cut your hair!”
If you love freebies…
Before I point you to some ready-to-print resources and ready-to-use digital resources for causative verbs, I want to share a free sample with you.
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Resources for Causative Verbs READY for you!
Whether you are looking for low-prep printable resources or self-checking digital BOOM cards, you’ll love what I have made for you. Below you’ll find a few of the resources I have available. Note: each of the four decks in the causative verbs BOOM bundle is also available separately, so you can buy exactly what you need.
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