This is for all you adult ESL teachers out there trying to get your students to use coordinating conjunctions other than “and”.
I didn’t know about the due date, and I missed class the day you explained it. One of my classmates told me it was today, and I thought since I missed class, tomorrow would be fine. - random student
Have you had that student yet? The one who punctuates sentences by tacking “and” to the beginning of the next sentence? It’s time to open up a coordinating conjunction clinic to get this fixed.
Put Coordinating Conjunctions in Your Lesson Plan NOW
A specific lesson on coordinating conjunctions that doesn’t spoonfeed them the definitions should be in your lesson plan. Subordinating conjunctions and complex sentences will be so much easier for them if they can first do compound sentences. They might feel like they’re communicating just fine, but using “and” for every situation will not suffice.
First, create some simple materials.
They’ll need a handout for the first part. This can be paper-based or a digital handout, but students need something they can write on and keep later for reference. This handout should have plenty of white space. Have a small empty box or circle at the beginning of each sentence. Create as much support as necessary for your group of students. For example, you could mix all the sentences or group them according to the keywords (and, but, so, yet, for, & or). Putting the keywords in bold is another bit of support.
Your sentences should each use one of the keywords. I’m calling them keywords instead of coordinating conjunctions because they’re not always conjunctions. So, create sentences that use them as coordinating conjunctions as well as other parts of speech or for other purposes. For example, for can also be used as a preposition. Yet can have a different purpose in a present perfect sentence. So could also be used as an adverb. And/or/nor might be used when giving a list.
For the second part, you’ll need index cards. Create 1-2 sentences for each of the coordinating conjunctions. Put the first half of a sentence, right up to and including the comma, on one card. Put the second half of the sentence, from the conjunction to the period, on another card. You’ll need a set for each pair/group of students, so if you’ve got a big class, forget the index cards and create this on your computer with whatever program you’re most comfortable with.
Second, dribble out the instructions.
If you just give them all the instructions at once, whether spoken or in writing, you deprive them of the chance to discover coordinating conjunctions for themselves. As I always had students who either wanted or needed to practice their speaking, I liked having them work together with a partner or in a small group of three. So let’s begin!
- Give each student a handout, even if they are working together. Then give them the following instructions, but always wait for them to finish one instruction before going to the next:
- Underline the subjects.
- Circle the verbs (including any helping verbs).
- Look for the sentences with a subject and a verb on either side of the word in bold. Put a checkmark next to each compound sentence. (My students had rarely heard of “compound sentence” before this moment, so I found it more helpful to give them the term like this than try to get them to come up with the term on their own.)
- Compare how the words in bold can be used to connect subjects, verbs, and sentences.
- Discuss the difference in the meaning of the words in bold in each set of sentences.
- Of course, during instructions 4 & 5, it’s best to wander around listening to theories they come up with so you know if you need to gently steer them in one direction or have them discuss their ideas with another group.
- Students don’t have to be 100% correct at this point. Being open to changing theories as more discoveries are made is an important lesson for them.
- Give each group a set of cards and tell them to connect the sentence beginnings with the correct endings.
- Encourage them to use context clues to come up with a meaning for each coordinating conjunction. They should discuss this and take notes.
- Now have each group join another to compare theories.
- Finally, ask the students to use the sentences as models for writing their own sentences for each of the coordinating conjunctions.
Finally, don’t let them forget coordinating conjunctions!
They are not nearly as likely to forget what coordinating conjunctions are and how to use them once they’ve done an entire discovery lesson of linguistic investigations, but they might because, let’s face it, they’ve got more going on in their lives than the grammar lessons we give them. Have them create a digital presentation about it or make a TikTok video to explain it. Challenge them to “teach” it to another class.
Don’t have the time to create all that?
If you love the idea but don’t have the time to set everything up, you can always pop over to my TpT store and grab my Coordinating Conjunctions Discovery Lesson. It has everything I mentioned above already made for you. You just have to print it all and cut out the cards. Easy peasy. Whatever you do, don’t just FANBOYS it! The acronym is useful for remembering the conjunctions themselves, but it does nothing to help them truly understand. No, not even if you create a song and dance routine that requires your (adult!) students to sing and dance with paper fans. (looking right at a former co-worker now)
Coordinating Conjunctions FREEBIE!
All right, now here comes your favorite part–the freebie! This time you get a set of graphic organizers.
Are connectives other than coordinating conjunctions actually the problem? Are Connectives the Missing Links in Your Adult ESL Writing Classes?
Practice coordinating conjunctions at home!
If your adult ESL students need to practice coordinating conjunctions at home, these digital BOOM decks are just what you need. Interactive and self-checking–I’m not sure if they’ll love them more, or if you will! Never heard of BOOM before? Or maybe you want to know why you should be using BOOM cards in adult ESL classes?